27th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I present the fol lowing petition:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The Humble Petition of citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully sheweth:
It has now been recognised that students as members of the University Community have a role and contribution in the making of University policies and decisions.
The Council of the Australian National University is the highest decision-making body and the final authority for the determination of policy within that University.
The University Council has approved the request of students and recommended to the Government that 2 elected undergraduates and the President of the Students’ Association be. members of that Council.
The Government has only agreed to add the President of the Students’ Association to the existing one undergraduate representative on the Council.
The workload involved, the representation required, and the acknowledged necessity for continuity at Council level, demand that at least 2 elected undergraudates in addition to the President of the Students’ Association, represent the Student Body on the Council.
Your petitioners request that your honourable House make legal provision for:
A further undergraduate representative on the Council of the Australian National University.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
-I give notice that on the next day of sitting, or as soon thereafter as it can be dealt with, I shall move:
That a Joint Select Committee be appointed to inquire into and report upon -
whether the present laws and the practices presently observed by the Government of the Northern Territory are in the best interests of the people of the Territory and of Australia;
whether the Northern Territory (Administration) Act and any other taws or arrangements upon which legislative and executive functions depend -
allow the will of the people of the Territory to be carried effectively into law;
provide an efficient means of adminis tering laws for the Territory;
need to be altered and if so in what respect.
– My question is direc- ted to the Minister representing the Minister for Air. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to a report which appeared in the Melbourne ‘Sun’ on Friday last stating that an F111B fighter bomber had apparently exploded in mid-air, killing the pilot and co-pilot?If so, can the Minister give the Senate any furtherinformation on the crash? If not, will a full report be given to this chamber?
– I am aware of the fatal crash that occurred in America.I do not think there is any purpose in conjuring up possible causes of the crash. The information I have is that an FB111, operating out of Carswell air force base, crashedlast week killing 2 members of its crew. A board of inquiry has been appointed to investigate the accident and when the inquiry is completed we will be informed of its findings. As I said in the Senate only a few weeks ago, the Royal Australian Air Force is not prepared to accept our 24 F111C aircraft until they meet the operational and technical requirements of the RAAF.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Is there any restriction on the import of meat substitutes into Australia? Can these products be freely imported from any country? Is there any Australian import duty on products of this nature?
– I understand that, there are no restrictions on the import of meat substitutes into Australia, other than those applying to food products generally. 1 understand also that such products are subject to quarantine inspection at the point of entry to ensure that they are wholesome and fit for human consumption. I think I made this point in answer to a question from Senator Devitt yesterday.
– What is a meat substitute?
– Something that looks like a piece of meat. Depending on the country of origin, products of this nature would be subject to a general rate of duty of 30 per cent ad valorem plus a primage of 10 per cent, I understand. There is also a preferential rate of 12 per cent plus a primage of 5 per cent.
– I wish to address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry on a similar subject. Does the Minister recall his reply to me yesterday during question time in which he said that no meat was coming into Australia from countries whose exports to the United States of America had been banned? I now produce for the inspection and information of the Senate 2 packs of canned corned beef which are almost identical in size, labelling, presentation and price, one being a product of Australia and the other the product of Uruguay.
– Mr President.. I rise to order. Is this a question or a speech?
– Order! Senator Devitt is giving a lot of information. He should ask his question.
– The 2 meat packs to which I have referred are both produced for W. Angliss and Co. (Aust) Pty Ltd. Does the Minister still believe the position to be as he stated yesterday? Further, since 30 of Australia’s 1.04 export meatworks have had their export licences suspended or cancelled, will the Government take immediate steps to ban a similar quantity of meat imports into this country to afford some protection to the local industry, which is currently worth Si 00m annually, and to ward off the economic and social damage which must inevitably flow from the current imports? Finally, does the Minister believe that the practice of importing corned beef into this country is a luxury that the current situation in primary industry can afford?
- Senator Devitt asked me yesterday by way of interjection whether meat was allowed into Australia from those countries from which meat had been banned from entry into the United States, and I replied no. I still hold with that answer because I was referring to whole meat, not canned meat.
– You did not say that.
– You did not question me about it.
– Yes I did. I asked whether any meat was coming into Australia. Canned meat is meat.
– Canned meats entering this country have to meet certain stringent hygiene regulations. Honourable senators will find that those tins have met those requirements an coming into this country. On the matter of whether we would ban an equal quantity of meat, I say no, I do not think we would. If we are to get meat into the United States then we have to comply with the Wholesome Foods Act in the United States. We are trying to do this by carrying out periodical inspections of Australian meat works.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Is it a fact that a Wimmera wheat grower has had withdrawn from the Dooen wheat silo in Victoria 2,770 bushels of wheat as reported in the ‘Wimmera Mail-Times’ of Friday, 9th October? If so, was this wheat withdrawn on his own application because it was to be used for stock food on his own property? Was this wheat immediately sold on the black market and not used for the purposes for which it was withdrawn? Is the person concerned a member of the Legislative Council in Victoria, representing the Western Province?
– The honourable senator who asks this question knows full well that I would not have details of such a matter. He has asked the question for. no other than a political purpose. I suggest that he put his question on notice.
– I wish to raise a point of order which relates to the matter of asking questions by quoting from « newspaper. The Standing Orders of the Senate require that a senator quoting from a newspaper in asking a question must vouch for the accuracy of the matter in the newspaper.
– It is the responsibility of the honourable senator to quote correctly. If he does not correctly report to the Senate then he is guilty of an offence. But 1 would point out that one could ask few questions if one did not base them on newspaper reports. More is the pity, but honourable senators still do it.
– ls the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry aware that it is claimed by people in the meat exporting business that as from November the two remaining meat processing works in Tasmania will find difficulty in coping with the amount of meat available for export? Can the Minister say if standards set by the United States of America authorities for hygiene and up-to-date slaughtering facilities have shown variations over the past several years? In the event of new abattoirs being built - this is mooted in Tasmania - anywhere in Australia in accordance with the present conditions laid down by the United States, could the people responsible have any confidence that those standards would remain consistent and not be so changed as to negative their venture?
– I answered a similar question yesterday and I can only reiterate what I said then. A booklet is made available lo each of the abattoirs and any amendment lo the standards is promulgated by way of a circular. I point out to the Senate again that all Australian meat works exporting to the United States of America are subject to periodic inspections by United States veterinarians to see that they comply with the United States Meat Inspection Act and meat inspection regulations. United States legislation requires foreign establishments to observe the same standards as those applicable to American meat works. As to whether there will be changes in the future, if there are amendments to the American Act then I take it that such requirements will be applied to Australian meat works.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether his attention has been drawn to the sharp drop in the wholesale sales of dry white table wines in South Australia during the quarter before the Budget. Sales in the quarter ended in June were 42,000 gallons less than the sales for the quarter ended last December. In view of the fact that wine is now subject to a drastic excise impost will the Leader of the Government in the Senate consult with his Cabinet colleagues in an endeavour to keep the position of the wine industry under constant review and preserve it from suffering the same fate as most of our other rural industries have suffered?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI am not aware of any variation in the wholesale selling of wine. Therefore I am not in a position to make any valid comment on the effect the imposition of an excise has had on the wine industry, ft is the traditional responsibility of the Department of Customs and Excise to watch the effect which the imposition of an excise has on any commodity. Of course, we all understand the principle of diminishing returns. I point out to the honourable senator that it is quite wrong to say that the excise on wine is a heavy impost. When one considers it in terms of the excise on fortified wines and other beverages one will appreciate that it is a relatively modest impost. However, as I said earlier, it is the responsibility of the Department of Customs and Excise to watch movements in this industry. I suggest to the honourable senator that if he examines the figures again he will probably find that what has happened has been a normal periodical fluctuation in demand. If not, it has probably been the usual result when a charge is first imposed. If I am any judge of the wine drinkers in this country there will very soon be a further natural expansion in the enjoyment of light wines by Australians.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. What steps are taken to ensure that substitute or synthetic products, such as synthetic meat and synthetic drinks, are labelled and marketed as synthetic products and are not labelled to give the impression that they are natural products?
– I am not aware of the full details. I shall have to check up on this matter. I will do so and let the honourable senator have the information he requires.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. What is the current position regarding the delivery of additional DC9 and 727 aircraft under the current programme? Does the offer of the McDonnell-Douglas organisation to bring forward the delivery dates to October 1971 still apply?
– On 10th March I made a Press statement about the delivery programme of the DC9 aircraft. The current situation, which I checked only a few days ago, is that each airline now has 8 DC9 aircraft. The delivery dates of those which are programmed to come under the equipment programme now in hand are: No, 9 for each company on 1st March 1971; No. 10 on 1st May 1971; No. 11 in mid- August 1971; and No. 12 in midNovember 1971. Together the airlines will then have 24 of these aircraft. This will represent an expansion in this period of time of 50 per cent, which I think honourable senators will agree is very substantial. The programme will have been improved by about 4 months from the position about 12 months ago. I do not know a great deal about the McDonnell-Douglas offer, but I think the offer has regard to the fact that the company is rather more anxious to sell aircraft than its competitors. I will try to find out more about this matter for the honourable senator. However, that is the current state of my knowledge.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Air. Has the Government determined the issue of the purchase or leasing of tanker aircraft to support the Phantom aircraft in their operational use? If so, what is to be the requirement and type of aircraft ordered? Does the Minister consider that the 24 Phantom aircraft which are at present in use are operationally effective under the conditions which exist in Australia at present where there is no tanker support? Also, is the Minister satisfied that the estimate of the safe mileage of the Phantom aircraft of 1,300 nautical miles which was given to Senator Milliner yesterday represents their operational performance?
– Currently the Royal Australian Air Force is investigating the Boeing 707-320 aircraft for the dual role of transport and tanker. It has been implied in the Press that we are looking at the KC135 as a tanker and the C141 as a transport; but they are no longer being manufactured, so that proposition is out. I checked up with my Department only yesterday to see how far this matter has gone. A submission on it has now gone to the Department of Defence. In regard to the honourable senator’s other question, the 24 Phantoms are under a lease arrangement with the United States at present, as he knows. I think that until we have a firm decision on the FU 1C we will continue with the lease arrangement. I believe that the Air Force can get a satisfactory performance out of the Phantoms, particularly when we have regard to the fact that we can use the operational base at Learmonth and those that we hold further to the north of us.
– My question is directed to the Minster representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Will he request the Minister for Primary Industry to consider further and make a full statement on the question of the establishment of a sugar beet industry in Tasmania to supply the local market and thereby save the substantially increased shipping costs and the sugar subsidy made available to certain Tasmanian industries and to compensate Tasmanian farmers for the substantial loss of their pea and bean market which, at least partially, has arisen because of failure to protect that industry from unfair competition from New Zealand and from competion from other Australian States which do not have the shipping freight disadvantage of Tasmanian growers? Will he draw his colleague’s attention to the fact that considerable investigation of the growing of sugar beet has been undertaken in Tasmania and that overseas beet growing experts have expressed confidence in the potential of that industry for Tasmania?
– I can well understand the honourable senator’s interest in Tasmania and in Tasmanian farmers; but I cannot quite understand his bias towards Tasmania in regard to trade with New Zealand and the other Slates. However, 1 certainly will look into this matter for him and take it up with the Minister for Primary Industry.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Housing. How many homes have been built under the war service homes scheme on the islands in the Torres Straits area and on the top end of Cape York? On which islands have the homes been erected?
– 1 will have to obtain that information, detailed as it is, for the honourable senator. But I want to make it quite clear to him that ex-servicemen have the same opportunity if they are eligible for war service homes whether they live on the top of Cape York or anywhere else, provided that they and their proposals fulfil the conditions that are laid down. I will obtain the details on the point the honourable senator has raised.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. In the operation of the envisaged wool marketing commission, would ‘market intelligence’ refer to, among other things, a close liaison in setting reserves for similar types of wool from day lo day throughout the wool exporting countries of the world, as there is little doubt that looming large among the causes of distress in relation to the New Zealand and South African reserve price schemes was the existence in Australia of a large and uncontrolled availability of wool for export?
– I have always believed that if any statutory wool marketing authority is to be successful in this country there must be co-operation by all other authorities, such as those in New Zealand and South Africa, in the provision and exchange of market intelligence. 1 believe I made that statement in my maiden speech in the Senate. However, I do not believe that this should imply that there will be agreement on a reserve price, reselling and so forth. I believe that they are matters of government policy rather than for an independent authority that has been set up.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Health assure the Senate that the Commonwealth Government is encouraging the States to make an all out effort to eradicate hydatids in both humans and animals, particularly having regard to the recent increase of this disease in the Australian Capital Territory?
– I have read some comments concerning hydatids, and a report relating to its incidence in the Australian Capital Territory. [ have received from the Minister for Health some information on the subject which is important, but may not answer each point that Senator Mulvihill has raised. If the honourable senator wishes more information than I am about to give I will endeavour to get it for him. The Department of Health informs me that the control of hydatid disease in theory is relatively simple. Theoretically the disease can be eradicated if all concerned abstain from feeding raw offal to dogs; wash their hands before eating, especially if dogs have been handled; and co-operate in the detention and treatment of infected dogs. Meat inspection legislation in all States provides for the condemnation and destruction of all organs of animals slaughtered for human consumption which are infected with hydatid cysts. For many years State Departments of Health and Agriculture have featured control of hydatid disease in their extension service work. Public education campaigns have been carried out for over 40 years by Slate governments, graziers’ associations and the Australian Wool Board. The honourable senator referred to the number of cases in the Australian Capital Territory. I have information concerning the number of notified cases throughout Australia in 1969-70 which may be of interest. In New South Wales there were 28 cases; in Victoria, 4; in Queensland, 2: in South Australia none; in the Northern- Territory, none; in Western Australia. I; in Tasmania 17; and in the ACT, none, making a total of 52 cases.
However, in the ACT the following numbers of cases were treated at the Canberra Community Hospital: In 1966-67, 4 ACT residents and 2 non-residents; in 1967-68, 2 residents and 2 non-residents; in 1968-69, 1 resident and 6 non-residents; in 1969-70, no residents but 6 nonresidents. I am informed that a continuing survey for hydatid disease in country dogs in the ACT is being undertaken in conjunction with the testing of cattle for brucella and tuberculosis. Dogs admitted to the pound are also being examined. The survey shows that hydatid infection in ACT dogs now is of much lower prevalence than formerly reported, indicating that the control programme in the ACT is proving effective. The New South Wales Department of Public Health is currently conducting a health education programme on hydatid disease in areas surrounding the Australian Capital Territory. The Commonwealth Department of Health is cooperating with the State Department in this programme.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science seek from his colleague information whether and under what circumstances the Fisheries Division o£ the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation would carry out research to discover whether beds of scallops and/ or prawns exist in the Tasmanian waters of Bass Strait, as is firmly believed by fishermen who have not the facilities and equipment to undertake this important research?
– My colleague from Tasmania appreciates that we have found the scallop rather elusive. I will certainly be interested to direct the Minister’s attention to the question of a quest for further beds of scallops and prawns in Bass Strait.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Following upon the very tragic and sad death of a young fighter after injuries received in a bout shown on television last week, has the Minister seen a statement attributed to the referee of the fight that television stations and clubs were exploiting young fighters and that these boys were being fed to the lions by money hungry organisers? Is the Minister aware that last week on the Australian Broadcasting Commission programme ‘PM’ the sporting programme manager of one of Sydney’s commercial television stations was reported as having said:
I think there should be a complete banning of boys being matched when they come from different weight divisions, and we are seeing a lot of this on television, too much weight being given away.
In order to stop this commercial exploitation of young Australians, will the Minister ask the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to confer with the Australian Boxing Federation for the purpose of laying down specific rules to protect these young men when they appear in bouts on television? Apart from world and national championship bouts which naturally attract the nationalistic sentiment of Australians and which are properly policed and medically controlled, will the Minister insist that all boxing programmes be not used for Australian content purposes in peak viewing times?
– We all regret these tragic incidents which occur and which result in death, particularly of a young person. The honourable senator really has made 2 particular comments. He wishes me to speak to the Postmaster-General and ask that such contests as boxing be not included in the Australian content and that there should be a conference with a view to protecting young boxers who take part in these bouts.
– I was referring to Australian content in peak viewing times.
– Thank you. I have noted those words. I certainly will take this matter up with the Postmaster-General and obtain a reply for the honourable senator.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport aware that it has been claimed in Tasmanian newspaper reports that the Tasmanian Premiers request for Commonwealth assistance in the construction of the
Bell Bay rail link has been supported by the Department of Shipping and Transport? If this is true, will the Minister request his colleague to take all possible steps to ensure that the earliest possible decision is made and announced in order to ensure that plans for the development of the wood chip export industry can be finalised as quickly as possible?
– “The Department of Shipping and Transport from time to time sends me material which I like to have on hand in order to answer questions as they come along. Equally, I try to read the newspapers that I can get my hands on in the time available to me for reading them. I have not seen anything at all about this subject in any newspaper that I have had. Nonetheless I imagine it is a serious case because recently agreement was reached on a price of $27 a ton for wood chips. This means that there is some urgency and a need for priority for this work. I will certainly tak’e this matter up with my colleague and ask him what he can tell me about it. If, as stated, he has decided to back the project I will see that it is pushed forward as soon as possible.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Attorney-General. Section 109 of the Life Insurance Act 1945-61 prevents an insurance company from paying even for the funeral expenses at the death of a child under the age of 10 years although life insurance on the child may have been paid for a period of up to 9 years. In view of this, will the Minister give immediate consideration to an amendment to this Act in order to remove this obvious injustice?
– I have not perused the actual section for some time but a provision of the nature referred to by the honourable senator was inserted, long before the Life Insurance Act, in life insurance legislation in order to prevent parents profiting from the death of very junior children. However, in the sense in which the honourable senator asked his question, I will have the matter examined.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation.
When will the first jumbo jet arrive at Tullamarine airport? How many jumbo jet flights are expected at Tullamarine each week? Is there an anticipated increase in the number of overseas nights to Tullamarine because of a lesser problem with aircraft noise than exists now at the Sydney airport?
– Qantas Airways Limited and British Overseas Airways Corporation have tentative plans to introduce the Boeing 747 jumbo jet on regular services into and out of Tullamarine as from November 1971, which is a little after the delivery of the first 747 to Qantas. The Department of Civil Aviation has had no proposals from any other international airline to commence 747 operations at Tullamarine any earlier than that date. BOAC is the only operator that so far has indicated its initial pattern of services at Tullamarine. It will operate one return service a week. I would imagine that an increase in the number of flights will depend upon the success of the operation to and from Tullamarine. There is no suggestion that international flights to Tullamarine wilt be increased because of the problem of aircraft noise at other airports.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health, lt follows Senator Mulvihills question about hydatids. Is the Minister aware that the Queensland Cabinet, on the submission of the Premier, Mr BjelkePetersen, granted permission to graziers to slaughter drought affected sheep for dog food? Is the Minister aware that permission has been granted to use kangaroo slaughtering facilities for this purpose mid that these are not subjected to strict health regulations? Is the Minister aware that the spread of the dreadful and insidious disease hydatids, over a wide area, has been greatly facilitated by completing the chain of infection from sheep to dog to human? Will the Minister take urgent steps to investigate and report on this possibility?
– I think that my reply to Senator Mulvihill answered some of the points raised by Senator Georges. I think T should inform him, as he spoke about Queensland, that in the year 1969-70 only 2 cases of this disease were notified in Queensland.
That State had one of the lowest rates. The honourable senator has raised some very interesting points. I will endeavour to obtain a detailed reply for him.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. It follows the Minister’s reply to questions about the use of infected parts of animals. Can the Minister assure the Senate that no infected parts of animals slaughtered at abattoirs in the Australian Capital Territory and in the Northern Territory, areas which are under the control of the Department of Health, find their way in end use by human consumption? If the Minister is unable to give a substantial answer to my question, will she seek a detailed reply from the Minister for Health?
-Because I believe that the honourable senator has asked a very important question, I will obtain a detailed reply.
– Does the Minister representing the Attorney-General recall that on 29th September last I referred to the fact that the South Australian AttorneyGeneral had indicated that he would introduce legislation complementary to the Federal Trade Practices Act, and I asked the Minister to take up with the Federal Attorney-General the matter of pressing the Liberal-Country Party governments in Western Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland to introduce such complementary legislation in order to deal with those restrictive trade practices which, on all hands, are acknowledged as being a factor in the increases of prices and a cause of inflation. I think the Minister indicated that he thought this may be an appropriate time to renew representations to the State governments to introduce that legislation, and he said that he would convey the matter to the Attorney-General for consideration. Could the Minister tell me the result of that question and whether representations have been made or are intended to be made to the State Governments?
– I well remember Senator Murphy’s question about a month ago. I was quite interested in the proposal.
I thought it an appropriate time for the Attorney-General’s attention to be directed to it. The Attorney-General has not advised me what action has been taken but I shall see whether he thinks it is appropriate to divulge any communications at the present time.
– My question is to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. No doubt he has seen Press reports about a presidential panel advising President Nixon of the United States of America that the call-up of youth in that country is costly, inequitable and divisive as a means of recruiting men for the armed forces, and introduces needless uncertainty into the lives of all young Americans? When can we expect the Australian Government to abandon the national service scheme which is also divisive, costly and inequitable, and to adjust the pay conditions of all servicemen so as to restore the traditional Australian volunteer defence force?
Yes, I have seen such a report. I am bound to point out that the situation in relation to national service in the United States of America may well be entirely different from the situation in Australia. Also the honourable senator does not make it clear whether he is talking in terms of providing personnel for the permanent forces on the one hand or whether he is speaking of recruiting for national service training. These are two separate things to a very large degree. The whole principle behind national service training in Australia is that we should at all times have a sufficient number of our young people of eligible age with enough basic training to defend Australia. The situation in this country in relation to recruiting people can, as I have said, be entirely different from the situation in the United States in respect of recruiting, as I understood the implication of the question, for the permanent forces in that country. In any event, I am being invited to make a comment on a matter of Government policy, and it is not appropriate to do this at question time.
– My question is to the Leader of the Government in the Senate also. I am informed that the National Mutual Life Assurance Company and some other assurance companies are circularising policy holders who have been granted loans on their policies, informing them that interest will be increased to8¼ per cent. As the loan agreements do not permit such an increase, policy holders are being asked to enter into new agreements in which variations of interest rates will be permitted, and if they refuse an immediate repayment of the loan is demanded. Is the Minister aware of this practice? Is there any action that the Government can take to protect the interests of such policy holders?
– I am not aware of what the honourable senator describes as a practice. I am well aware, and I am sure we are all aware, that in certain circumstances contractual arrangements that are entered into provide for variations of interest rates. This is noticeable in respect of loans organised through thebuilding society movement and certainly in respect of some loans through the banking institutions. I think that one would need to know the circumstances in which the loans in question were originally negotiated. Perhaps the best way to get some more particularised information would be for me to direct the question to the Treasurer and ask him to make some comment about the matter.
– I desire to ask a question of the Leader of the Government in the Senate. As all Commonwealth departments use the Press extensively for public advertising, such as advertisements giving information to the public, inviting applications for positions and so on, will the Minister investigate the possibility of instructing the various departments to give at least some Government advertising to the smaller newspapers, particularly those published tri-weekly, bi-weekly and weekly, rather than practically confine that advertising to the dailies, as is done at present?
– Department by department- - Senator Keeffe - I could give you the answer.
– I wonder whether I am to answer the question or Senator Keeffe, because if he wants to answer it I will let him do so.
– I could give you the answer.
– Well, let the honourable senator have a go, but after I have had a go at it. The simple fact is that each department has a responsibility within its own right in relation to obtaining its requirements. I think it would be a basic tenet of advertising that one advertises where one believes that his message or advertisement will reach the most people and where it will attract the most interest for the position or item which is advertised. Within that framework I am sure that in certain circumstances, particularly in relation to some departments whose interest extends into rural areas, where rural interests are involved, the department would advertise in local areas using the facilities of the media in those areas. But we must come back to the basic point that one advertises for the purpose of getting answers to the advertisement and one advertises in the areas where one feels that he will get the most answers.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. In answer to a question yesterday relative to the withdrawal of licences for meat export to the United States of America, the Minister stated that a handbook is made available to each abattoir and that it contains information from the Department of Primary Industry as to the standards required to be met. Is the information contained in the handbook compiled on the basis of regular consultation and in accordance with the requirements of the United States authority? If the answer to the question is in the affirmative, what action has the Minister taken to cause the several abattoirs to meet the known standards?
– I said yesterday, and I said again today in answer to a question by Senator Lillico, that I have been informed by the Department of Primary Industry that a handbook is made available to each abattoir throughout the Commonwealth and that any amendments promulgated are circulated to those abattoirs. With regard to the remainder of the question, I have not the details to enable me to supply an answer, but I shall seek the information and make it available to the honourable senator.
– Can the Minister for Housing inform the Parliament whether the Department of Housing is prepared to build war service homes on the group system for Aboriginal and island exservicemen on Cape York and on islands in the Torres Strait in the same way as group building is carried out for white exservicemen in all other parts of Australia?
– War service homes loans to purchase a home, are made available to those ex-service people who are eligible for such a loan and can fulfil the conditions required. The conditions of eligibility for a loan are the same whether a person is an islander or whether he lives somewhere else.
– I was asking about the group system.
– Whatever it is, they still have to fulfil the conditions of eligibility for a loan. If an application is made it is considered in the light of the eligibility of the applicant.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise. When the proposed 3c increase in excise duty is applied to aircraft fuel, what percentage of the cost of a gallon of aircraft fuel will be represented by tax?
– One could not hope to be able to answer that question without having access to a calculating machine and some appropriate figures. 1 shall try to get the information for the honourable senator this afternoon.
– Some time ago I asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General whether a reduction could be made in the costs to pensioners for telephone rentals which were raised as a consequence of the provision in the Budget. Has the Minister any information relating to this matter?
– Senator O’Byrne asked me this question on 25th August. I took the matter up with the Postmaster-General and it was then referred to the Minister for Social Services because the cost of this concession is borne by the Department of Social Services and the Repatriation Department. I have received a reply from the Minister for Social Services. Under the Telephone Regulations a one-third telephone rental reduction applies to age, invalid and widow pensioners under the Social Services Act; service pensioners, war widows and totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners, excluding war blinded, under the Repatriation Act; and blind persons. For all cases except blind persons and war widows there is a qualifying condition confining actual entitlement to those who live alone, live with another person eligible for the concession or live with another person or persons who individually do not receive a weekly income in excess of $25.
The one-third reduction in rental will apply to approximately 190,000 subscribers for whom savings will range from $7.66 to $15.66 per year, depending on the area in which a subscriber resides. Those reductions in rental, the cost to revenue of which will be over S2.5m per year, represent a considerable saving to qualified persons. As I recall it Senator O’Byrne went on further in his question and asked whether there would be a further extension of the existing telephone rental concession. I have information that this was considered by the Government in the review of the whole field of social services which was carried out prior to the preparation of the Budget but on this occasion it was not found possible to make any changes in this area.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. In view of his statement that the Commonwealth will provide 75 per cent and the New South Wales Government 25 per cent of the cost of building an air strip on Lord
Howe Island, when will the building of the air strip commence and what is the approximate date of its completion?
– It is perfectly correct that after quite a long period of negotiation the Premier of New South Wales and the Prime Minister have agreed on a formula for constructing a land air strip at Lord Howe Island in order to allow the flying boat service to be phased out. At the moment it is not possible for me to say when the actual construction will commence, except that the Commonwealth stands ready, as it has said, to find 75 per cent of the capital cost with a ceiling on this amount. The construction work is in the hands of the New South Wales State Government authorities. The Commonwealth Government and the Department of Civil Aviation have provided every possible assistance to evaluate sites, to lay down the programme and help in every way with it. The answer to when work will start and when it will finish is substantially to be found within the New South Wales State Government area.
– I desire to ask a question of the Minister representing the Treasurer if he is the Minister responsible for workers compensation. This year in a workers compensation case of Shearer against the Commonwealth did Mr Justice Levine, the. appeal judge, criticise the action of the. Commissioner for Compensation in revoking and destroying after the death of the employee 33 previous determinations thus, in the judge’s words, destroying the only available evidence of the material history of the illness of the deceased and his application for arbitration? Was the judge’s criticism that the Commissioner’s action was contrary to equity and good conscience, one of the requirements under section 6 of the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act that the Commissioner was obliged to observe? Did Mr Justice Levine express the opinion that the action of the Commissioner was like some trick of advocacy and was done to withdraw what otherwise appeared to be an admission pf liability favourable to the worker? In view qf this judgment what action has been taken by the Minister to ensure that at all times the
Commissioner shall act in accordance with equity and good conscience and not prejudice claims by dependants of injured or deceased employees?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI am not aware of any of the circumstances in this case. In view of the comprehensive nature of the question I suggest that it be put on notice so that I can refer it immediately to the Treasurer.
– My question Is directed to the Minister for Housing. If a group of 100 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island ex-servicemen were to make application for homes in the Cape York and Torres Strait Island areas between now and 31st December 1970 and were able to provide the minimum deposit would the Department of Housing construct the houses under the war service homes scheme?
– The honourable senator has asked a hypothetical question. The Department of Housing would have to examine the applications after they had been made to determine whether the applicants were eligible and could fulfil the conditions required of them.
– On the basis of colour?
– Mr President, I think the honourable senator should withdraw that remark. It was most offensive. Every ex-serviceman has to fulfil the same conditions in order to be eligible. It is most unfortunate that the honourable senator should make such a remark. The eligibility of applicants is not based on their colour.
– You should withdraw that remark, Senator Keeffe.
– I based my question on a hypothetical situation. I have asked the same thing of the Minister before. However, if she is offended by my remark I will withdraw it.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Supply. Can the Minister indicate whether any progress has flowed from his reply to me on 25th August regarding the fears of members of the Transport Workers Union who are employed by the Commonwealth car pool in Sydney that their earnings will diminish due to the increased utilisation of private car operators?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI did reply to the honourable senator in relation to an industrial dispute which occurred there. I can inform the honourable senator that I did in fact receive a communication from a union representative in relation to this matter. A reply was sent to the Federal Assistant Secretary of the Transport Workers Union on 6th October 1970 by the industrial officer of the Department of Supply in relation to the matters under discussion. If the Federal Assistant Secretary of the TWU wished to respond to the reply of the industrial officer or put forward other views he would be perfectly free to do so. I understand that discussions are going on at present in relation to this matter between the Department’s industrial officer and the union.
(Question No. 316)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice:
Have Esso andBHP contracted to sell quantities of liquid petroleum gas overseas, and has the price for the gas not been revealed; if so, what method will be used to calculate the amount of royalty to be paid on the gas produced.
– The Minister for National Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Esso and BHP have contracted to export liquified petroleum gas at prices not publicly announced.
Royalties are payable on petroleum (including gas) produced from Bass Strait oil and gas fields in accordance with the provisions of the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act and the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) (Royalty) Act, both of 1967, such royalties being calculated as a proportion of the ‘value at the well-head’ of petroleum produced.
The rates of royalty laid down for fields in the Bass Strait are:
Barracouta and Marlin - 11 per cent Halibut andKingfish - 12½ per cent.
As to ‘value at the well-head’, Section 9 of the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) (Royalty) Act specifies that this shall be such amount asis agreed between the permittee or licensee and the Designated Authority, or in default of agreement within such period as the Designated Authority allows, is such amount as is determined by the Designated Authority as being that value.
The provisions of the offshore petroleum legislation are such as to enable a Designated Authority to require a licensee to disclose to him information about sale prices and other information relevant to the ascertainment of well-head value and the calculation of royalty.I am assured that the Designated Authority for Victoria has exercised bis powers to obtain this information in relation to liquid petroleum gas from the Bass Strait fields. Such information is, however, kept confidential between the companies concerned and Governments.
Notwithstanding that prices for particular contracts for the export of liquified petroleum gas have not been publicly announced some general indication of the value of exports can be obtained from export statistics that have been made available recently by the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics.
The Bureau’s Monthly Bulletin of overseas Trade Statistics for July 1970, in which month exports from Victoria look place for the first time, indicates that the value of exports from Australia of Petroleum Gas: Gaseous Hydrocarbons” totalled $306,000 in that month.
The Bureau also makes available as supporting material to interested subscribers detailed information concerning the figures shown in the monthly bulletin. In relationto exports from Victoria the following information has been made available as to exports of liquified petroleum gas from that State during July:
(Question No. 358)
asked the Minister for
Supply, upon notice:
In each of the last 10 years, how much has Australia paid or agreed to pay to the United States of America for defence material and services.
The answer to the Leader of the Opposition’s question is as follows:
Thecommitment of funds in the United Stales of America for defence materials and services for . the last 10 years was as detailed hereunder. The.. figures are related to the years in which the commitments were entered into and not to the years in which actual ependiture has occurred.
(Question No. 562)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 404)
asked the Minis ter representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONThe Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 591)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Information obtained from the British authorities is set out in the following table to show the number of work vouchers issued by the British Government during the years 1967, 1968 and 1969 to Commonwealth citizens and Australian citizens:
(Question No. 600)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
– The Minister for Labour and National Servicehas provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question: (1), (2) and (3) I have directed that an Inspector of my Department investigate the matters raised in the honourable senator’s question insofar as the relevant award has application to matters raised in the question. In light of what that investigation reveals I shall provide a further reply to the honourable senator’s question.
(Question No. 602)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
– The Minister for Social Services has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 633)
asked the Minister representing the Minister-in-Charge of Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice:
What are the legal discriminations against Aborigines in each of the States.
– The Minister-in-Charge of Aboriginal Affairs has furnished me with the following information in reply:
The following State laws, which are currently under discussion with the State Government con cerned, contain provisions which could be, prima facie, regarded us discrimination against Aborigines:
The Aborigines’ and Torres Strait islanders’ Affairs Act 1965-1967 and the Regulations thereunder;
Vagrants, Gaming and Other Offences Acts ‘ 1931.-1967 (paragraph (ii) of Section 4 (1)).
Licensing Act 1911-1968 (Section 150-151)
Native Welfare Act 1911-1963 (Section 17)
Native (Citizenship Rights) Act 1944-1964.
(Question No. 643)
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer; upon notice:
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONThe Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The latest statistics relate to returns for the 1968-69 income year assessed during the period 1st July 1969 to 30th June 1970. The number of taxpayers whose subscriptions to Drought Bonds were wholly or partly disallowed as deductions for income tax purposes, and the amount disallowed, by each office of assessment were as follows:
(Question No. 704)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice:
– The Minister for Customs, and Excise has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
South Australian Police Force were having some difficulty in carrying out analysis and identification of marihuana as required by the Definition’ in the Dangerous Drugs Act. The Customs Department’s Forensic Laboratory which is experienced . in the type of analysis required, has been placed at the disposal of South Australian Police Drug Squad to overcome any problem in analysis. Currently the South Australian
Government Is considering amendments to the Dangerous Drugs Legislation, including a wider definition for the drug marihuana.
(Question No. 481)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(a) The Chairman of Directors of Commonwealth Hostels Ltd is paid a fee of $5,150 per annum and the non-departmental members of the Board receive a fee of $1,950 per annum. A travelling allowance at the rate of$21 per day is available to Directors travelling on company business.
The total Directors’ fees paid are shown in the Company’s annual financial statements which are lodged with the Registrar of Companies. These documents are readily available to all persons upon request to the Registrar.
There is a special departmental appropriation - Division 370/3/07 - covering the operating expenses of the National Labour Advisory Council.
(Question No. 527)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Does the recent Commonwealth Public Service Board policy decision to limit cadetships to applicants with first year university attendances, discriminate against children of low-income families.
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Public Service Board has advised me as follows -
At present there are 41 categories of Commonwealth Public Service cadetships offering degree or diploma studies. Recruitment to these cadetships is by open competitive processes and both Commonwealth Scholarship holders and other students, including those financing their own studies, are eligible to apply.
The conditions of eligibility for appointment vary according to the category of cadetship. However, the general situation has been that persons have not been appointed unless they have completed one or more years of the specified degree or diploma course. This has been the case since 1967 and since 1950, where possible, persons who had proven their abilities to cope with the required studies by completing one or more years of the particular tertiary course have been recruited.
Recruitment at the higher level reduces the length and expense of the training period. This is in harmony with the purpose of cadetships, that is to supplement direct recruitment of fully qualified staff in areas of recruitment difficulty.
The Board’s current experience is that in most categories sufficient good quality applicants are offering each year at undergraduate and underdiplomate level, but arrangements are kept under review.
(Question No. 590)
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice:
Has the Attorney-General’s attention been drawn to recent statements made in the Sydney Daily Mirror’ by the Australian Translation President, Captain Rudolf Dezelin, concerning approaches he received from ultra-right wing Croatians about assassination attempts on members of the Yugoslav community who oppose fascist political groups; if so, doesthe Attorney-General intend taking any action in respect of such information.
– The AttorneyGeneral has supplied the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I have read the statements which appeared in the Sydney newspaper on 11th August 1970. The pamphlet mentioned in the article had been referred to in a newspaper report in Victoria in June 1970. Examination of the pamphlet disclosed that it had not been printed in Australia. From enquiries it would appear that the 5 persons mentioned in the pamphlet have never visited Australia.
(Question No. 627)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
– -The Minister for Labour and National Service has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 639)
Senator POYSER (through Senator
Keeffe) asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
What percentage of Australian export or exchange earnings is retained by foreign or overseas companies now operating in Australia.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONThe Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
In 1968-69, the most recent year for which detailed information is available, income payable overseas on direct investment by companies in Australia was equivalent to 11.5 per cent of Australia’s current foreign exchange earnings (that is, exports plus invisible credits). Income payable overseas includes income derived from sales in Australia as well as from export sales.
(Question No. 650)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
Has Her Majesty Queen Sisowath Kossamak
Nearireath, mother of Prince Norodom Sihanouk, been gaoled in Cambodia or, alternatively, is the Queen under house arrest.
– The Acting Minister for External Affairs has furnished the following reply:
Her Majesty Queen Sisowath Kossamak Nearireath has neither been gaoled nor is she under house arrest. At the Cambodian Government’s request the Queen moved on 24th July from the Royal Palace to Prince Sihanouk’s family home in Phnom Penh where she now lives. I understand that the Government has provided two cars to enable her and members of her entourage to move about the city.
(Question No. 680)
asked the Minister in charge of Tourist Activities, upon notice:
– The questions seek information which the Commonwealth does not have, and which is related to functions within the jurisdiction of the State of Queensland. It would be more appropriate for the question to be directed to that State.
On 23rd September, Senator Mulvihill asked me the following question without notice:
Does the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs know of any move by the Government of Algeria to permit its former liberator Ben Bella. to go abroad to political asylum.
Does he know of any overtures made to Australia to grant Ben Bella political asylum here.
I said that I did not know of any of these circumstances but that I would have the question put to the Minister for External Affairs, who has provided the following answer:
The Australian Government is not aware of any move by the Government of Algeria to permit the former President of Algeria, Mr Ben Bella, to leave that country. Similarly, the Government has received no request to grant him political asylum in Australia.
– I. bring up the Thirty-fourth Report of the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances relating to the Bankruptcy (Offences) Rules contained in Statutory Rules 1970, No. 87, together with minutes of evidence and move:
That the Report and minutes of evidence be printed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cotton) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill amends the Excise Tariff in accordance with Excise Tariff proposals No.1 introduced into the Parliament on 1 8th August 1970. These tariff amendments, operating from 19th August 1970, give effect to the Government’s Budget measures relating to excise duties. Increased duties are imposed on manufactured tobacco products and certain refined petroleum products and duty is imposed for the first time on grape wine.
When the proposals of 18th August were introduced it was indicated that the Government would exempt from excise duty wine produced by persons for their own use, in quantities not exceeding 400 gallons per annum. Thisexceptionwillbe granted through departmental by-law procedures. The Bill also includes an amendment removing the excise duty previously applying to spirits used for fortifying wine. A summary of the amendments is being circulated. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator Bishop) adjourned.
(No. 1) 1970
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on, motion by Senator Cotton) read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill, the first of 2 Bills dealing with diesel fuel, is to amend the principal Act by varying the rate of tax to be collected on diesel fuel. This tax is imposed on diesel fuel which has been purchased at a duty free price by a person who is the holder of a diesel fuel certificate and is subsequently sold or disposed of to a person who is not the holder of a certificate. As diesel fuel is free of duty only when sold to a certificate holder for use otherwise than in propelling road vehicles on public roads, this Act imposes a tax on such fuel which is subsequently . disposed of to a person not entitled to the duty free concession. The variation in the rate of tax is consequent upon the customs and excise tariff changes contained in the recent Budget proposals. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on’ motion by Senator Bishop) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cotton) read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill, the second of 2 Bills dealing with diesel fuel, is to amend the principal Act by varying the rate of tax to be collected on diesel fuel which has been purchased at a duty free price and is subsequently ‘ used . in propelling a road vehicle on a public road. A person who is the holder of a diesel fuel certificate may use duty free fuel, purchased by virtue of his certificate, in propelling a road vehicle on a public road. However, he is required to notify the Collector of Customs of such usage within 21 days and to pay tax on the fuel so used. This Bill is complementary to the one just introduced and the variation in the rate of tax is consequent upon cusoms and excise tariff changes contained in the recent Budget proposals. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Bishop) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cotton) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill provides for increases in customs tariff rates’ and is complementary to the Excise Tariff Bill I have just introduced. The Bill is necessary to give effect to the Government’s Budget in relation to tobacco products, certain refined petroleum products and wine of fresh grapes. I commend the Bill.
Debate( on motion by Senator Bishop) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 17th September (vide page 667), on motion by Senator Cotton:
That the Bill he now read a second time.
– The Opposition does not oppose this Bill which is not of any great substance. Nevertheless, the matters with which it deals are important. As the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) pointed out in his second reading speech, it is not often that Parliament has the opportunity to discuss the matters with which the Bill and the principal Act deal. There is no doubt that the provision of proper and adequate navigational facilities on the Australian coast is most important, not only from the point of view of merchant shipping but also from the point of view of the movement of naval vessels. Our prime concern and our responsibility is to ensure that the facilities on the Australian coast are the latest which modern science can provide and the best that we can afford.
The 2 principal factors with which the Bill is concerned are the widening of the terminology of the Act to include modern navigational aids, electronic aids and other radio aids which have come into existence in recent years, and also the delegation of powers of the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair) to some of the officers in his Department. When I say that these aids have come into existence in recent years, I mean that they are comparatively new in this country because in the last 10 to 15 years the Department has not given proper consideration to the new navigational aids which have come into use in other parts of the world. During the course of his second reading speech the Minister made this comment:
Since that time . . .
That is, when the Commonwealth Act was originally passed in 1911 - we have made considerable strides in the provision of lighthouses, or ‘marine navigational aids’ as they are now more generally known. The term marine navigational aids’ in itself is symptomatic of the changes that have occurred.
He described what lighthouses were some years ago, how the various changes have taken place and the introduction of automatic operation, electricity and so on. The manner in which the speech was made would suggest that Australia can be proud of what it has done over the years in providing these facilities, but we should not be proud at all. Essentially we are back in the horse and buggy days. We are not up to date with other countries in providing these facilities. During the course of his speech the Minister said: a number of new developments have occurred which allow other aids to take the place qf the lighthouse as such.
He referred to the radio beacons that have been installed at a number of places on the coast. Presumably he meant the directional finding beacons which certainly have been in use on the Australian coast for many years but, as any navigator on the coast will tell you, they are not of great value really. They are a fairly primitive form of aid and something which the ordinary merchant ship does not avail itself of very much. By comparison, most other countries, and the advanced countries in particular, have provided more up to date methods of navigation on their shores. 1 think we ought to be looking at this now on a national basis. We ought to be looking to the years ahead to realise just how much we can assist ourselves economically if we provide better navigational systems than we have now. The lighthouse is the most primitive of them all. Yet basically it is still the method by which ships are navigating in Australian waters.
Only recently the big tanker ‘Oceanic Grandeur’ went aground off the northern Australian coast. I think the Minister said in one Press statement that these are the sorts of things that we wish to avoid in the future. If I recall correctly, it was at a time when he was referring to the establishment of the Decca system at Port Hedland. He was quite correct when he said that in view of the increased size of ships and the potential danger of pollution - I think Senator Mulvihill hopes to say more about this later on - the need to prevent these accidents from occurring becomes more apparent. A recent report from the United States indicates just how great are these marine losses around the world. An article last year in the winter edition of the American Journal on Navigation reported that the study made by the Committee on Oceanography of the National Academy of Sciences estimated that potential world losses from strandings and collisions could be about $500m annually during the mid-1970s. It is quite obvious that the number of accidents involving big freighters and tankers will tend to increase as the years go by, and so our problems will increase.
Some years ago many countries accepted and realised the tremendous potential of navigational aids whilst we in this country seemed to neglect them completely. I can recall, as would many other honourable senators who have had some experience in this .field, the setting up of console stations by various countries. If I remember rightly, in Western Europe there was one in Spain, one in Ireland and I think one in
Norway. These stations made quite a simple navigational aid but an extremely effective one. One could receive a signal on an ordinary radio receiver. These were standard equipment. No one thought they were anything particularly marvellous and yet we in this country would not know what they were. I do not think we have had anything like this here. In fact, I am sure that nothing like this has been installed on the Australian coast. Yet they were quite accepted overseas. In more recent years the Japanese have developed a miniconsole which is suitable even for fishing vessels and other small vessels. Although in making these points I am, I suppose, being critical of the Government, my primary intention is to alert the Government to the fact that rapid changes are taking place. It is strange that a major maritime country such as Australia, with a very long coastline of about 12.000 miles, can now proudly boast that it has installed its first station on a decca chain.
Some time ago consideration was given to the establishment of a similar decca chain in south eastern Australia to assist ships passing through Bass Strait and going to and from New: Zealand. Apparently nothing has come of that. But looking at it in the long term. I think we have to give consideration to other systems of navigation which are going to supersede eventually all present systems. We find now a multiplicity of these aids becoming available on the world market. Of course, the ultimate of all these systems is the terrestial satellite system, which we in Australia probably will not see for many years because of the tremendous expense involved. I do not wish to canvass in this debate the political arguments concerned with the establishment of Omega beacons; sufficient is to say that something along the lines of the Omega system will become world wide. The advantages flowing from this type of navigational system are too great to be ignored. It is as simple as that. When it is considered that 8 stations around the world can provide a worldwide navigation system for merchant ships, in contrast to the very intricate and involved methods that are used today, we can see that such a system has very great economic potential for all merchant ships of all nations.
To indicate just how far advanced are other contries compared with ourselves, at the present time over 3,000 merchant ships crossing the oceans of the world are equipped with Omega receivers. They use them every day for position fixing. The receiver itself is not an expensive item. It costs only about $12,000 in American currency. That is quite cheap in this particular field of electronics. I think that this is something that ought to be given serious consideration, because this is the type of system to which we will be moving and moving fairly rapidly. So I would trust that, keeping in mind all the proper safeguards to be written into any agreements that may be entered into, we ought not to bypass opportunities which may enable us to keep abreast of the more recent developments.
– It may be that the Act has not been amended because the Commonwealth was considering recent developments.
– That may well be; I would not know. But perhaps the Minister or his assistant could advise us in that regard. On the other hand it may well be also that the Government has not taken the trouble even to give proper consideration to what to do about it.
I want to spend just a few minutes in speaking about the present position and the condition of lighthouses on the Australian coast. I think all of us would be aware of just how isolated an existence it is to serve in a lighthouse. The Department in recent years had a considerable amount of trouble in maintaining the necessary personnel to keep the lighthouses manned. A good deal of this has been due to the fact that the conditions under which lightkeepers work are not commensurate with the sort of life that they have to lead. Most of them are married people with families, and there are very, very limited education facilities available to their children. In fact, the on! education they can gain is by correspondence. Despite the fact that some very small assistance is given by the Government for education at boarding schools, the parents must make up the difference, and this is quite a significant financial burden on them. What happens when the lighthouse keeper takes his leave? Because of the shortage of staff as a result of the conditions not being good enough, many of them cannot take their leave at a suitable time. They are entitled to a period of 5 weeks annual leave. I know of at least one case in which a man has gone for over 2 years before he has been able to take his annual leave. Quite obviously this is an extreme burden on families with young children, and it is particularly strenuous for the women. These are matters to which the Department ought to give consideration.
The Government should also consider providing regular leave not at 12 monthly intervals but at 6 monthly intervals, and also giving financial assistance to these people to enable them to take their families a long way from where they are normally stationed so that they can see something of civilisation. But 1 understand the Department is not affording this kind of assistance. Once the lighthouse keeper’s leave becomes due, if he is on an island or on some remote headland, he is virtually dumped on the shore from the island and told: ‘lt is up to you from here as to where you go. It is your business, but we are not going to give you any particular assistance.’ If we are going to provide the necessary personnel that we need for the lighthouse service I think we have to look at the conditions under which these people are employed.
It is surprising to know also that some lighthouses are not equipped with automatic distress signalling equipment to enable them to receive automatic distress signals. If a ship or fishing boat well south of Tasmania sends out a distress signal there is no automatic response to that signal - in Tasmania, anyway - and the message will have to be picked up either by Melbourne or Sydney radio. The facilities at lighthouses are inadequate for this day and age when radio hams who use radio as a hobby only have better equipment than that which is available to lighthouses. Yet in many cases this equipment could be of importance to the life or wellbeing of crew members or persons on board a ship. 1 believe that Hobart radio closes at 6.30 p.m. so in cases of emergency a message would have to go through Melbourne or Sydney radio. Apparently this situation is common to all lighthouse stations on the coast. The facilities at all of them are inadequate. I do not know why this situation should have been allowed to develop over the years.
The need for adequate facilities, especially in times of distress, is urgent. Facilities are primitive when it is necessary to communicate through Sydney or Melbourne^ - if you happened to be off the West Australian coast, you would have to communicate with a station which might be 3,000 or 4,000 miles away - and then for the message to be retransmitted. I make a plea to the Minister that instead of simply amending the Act to widen its terminology, we should also extend the services afforded by lighthouses by supplying them wilh the best equipment. Marine navigation is an exact science, but it is very much a changing one. Modern aids to navigation which obviously have been neglected over the years by the Department should be supplied to lighthouses, now that the equipment is available in quantity, and we should be making the maximum effort to ensure that Australia is as up to date with these facilities as are other countries, i hope that the Government will consider the possibility of adopting a national plan to provide navigational facilities and of training staff so that we can be assured in the years ahead of having proper navigational aids for the tremendously increased volume of shipping that we can expect around Australia in the 1970s.
- Senator Wriedt, who has extensive maritime experience, has dealt with many aspects of this legislation, but 1, speaking as a land man, lean heavily on the opening sentence in the second reading speech delivered by the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton), who represents the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair) in this place, in which he referred to the fact that it is not very often that Parliament is called upon to deal with lighthouse matters. I propose to use that definition to the full. Firstly I should like to pay my tribute to the lighthouse staffs. It has been on a few occasions only .that I have met these people, but I have always been impressed by their high sense of dedication. lt appeared to me that there was one omission from the Minister’s second reading speech. I refer to the industrial future of those who at present follow this profession. I should like the Minister to allay my fears about what will happen to these people and to assure me that notwithstanding the sophisticated methods which are being introduced to lighthouses, none of these people will be thrown on the industrial scrap heap.
I should like to refer also to a matter touched on by Senator Wriedt, that is, the question of improved navigational aids for use in the event of a tanker mishap. When I read about the automatic tide gauge which has been installed at Boothby Island I wondered whether the Government would take a policy attitude similar to that which it has taken in relation to airlines which are required to contribute towards the cost of navigational facilities. It will be agreed that the companies operating some of the larger oil tankers are super industries, for want of a better term. They should be made to play their part in providing for the cost of navigational aids. With the introduction of the jumbo type oil tankers of the size that have been coming out of the Japanese, West German and Yugoslav shipyards, the plain fact of the matter is that one error in the handling of these tankers will create much trouble. When it comes to the installation and maintenance of. this sophisticated equipment to be installed at lighthouses I wonder whether the work will be performed by Commonwealth employees or whether it will be parcelled out to firms which might specialise in this type of work. I am not suggesting who should do the work, but I am interested in knowing who will do it.
I should like to take the matter of policy a little further. I remind the Minister of an answer that I received from the Minister for Shipping and Transport on 15th September in reply to question No. 543. 1 think I am technically correct in saying that any island around the Australian coastline on which a lighthouse is established comes more or less under the control of the Minister for Shipping and Transport. It is on the basis of that understanding that I approach the matter. I remind the Minister of paragraph 4 of the answer supplied in response to question No. 543. This lists a number of islands which are under the control of the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Rather than read them out individually, with the concurrence of honourable senators I incorporate that paragraph in Hansard.
In view of the sophisticated instruments which are being installed, I wonder whether on any of the islands which are listed there is a conventional type lighthouse which will become obsolete. If that does happen, will the Department surrender the title to these islands and, if it does, what will become of them? In asking that question I have in mind an inspection by myself and my colleague Senator Devitt of a number of islands in Bass Strait. One island that we visited was Goose Island. At that time 1 paid a tribute to the Minister for Shipping and Transport for the way in which he assisted us in the cause of the Cape Barren geese. He was very helpful and I again pay tribute to him. However, later I had correspondence with the South Australian Minister for Agriculture, the Hon. T. Casey, in respect of Pearson Island on which the Commonwealth has a lighthouse. In that case the Minister had worked in conjunction with the State authorities to maintain the island as a fauna sanctuary. Although at that time he teetered on the brink in relation to the matters that I had put to him by letter and in questions, I did not visualise then the technical changes which are to come about. But this only serves to vindicate my attitude at that time. Firstly the number of conventional lighthouses could diminish and the Commonwealth could vacate certain islands. But even if they are left as they are I cannot understand why they should be left to the good graces of an existing Minister. The Government should introduce complementary legislation so that if somebody finds some rich minerals - whether it be on Goose Island, Pearson Island or an island in my own State of New South Wales such as Montague Island - it should not be left to the whim of the Minister to decide whether companies should go in there and tear up the island. Legislation relating to the use of the island should be placed before this Parliament and the Minister of the day should have to justify it. Naturally these questions are not answered immediately In the second reading speech but obviously as land tenure is involved with lighthouses I think the Minister might elucidate to the Senate what will happen to some of these islands in the future when a lighthouse may not be needed. To take it a step further, I wonder whether there will not be other sections of the Australian coast where there may be another miniature Booby Island where sophisticated instruments are necessary. If the Commonwealth installs these instruments, whether on the Australian mainland or on an island, will it mean that more land will be taken over by the Commonwealth? Mark you, I do not object to this. I think the use of any weapon to acquire land for some of these purposes would be very good. But I would like the acquisition to be made water tight so that as far as the custody of the land is concerned it is there for posterity. As 1 say, we have not been told about these things.
I refer to Macquarie Island. I know that some of my Tasmanian colleagues have questioned my wisdom at times when I have spoken about Commonwealth ownership. I pose this question which may not be hypothetical. We talk about the Antarctic. As years go on it may be that there will be more ships there. I wonder whether at some future time the Government will install some sophisticated equipment on Macquarie Island? Does this mean that the
Commonwealth will negotiate with the Tasmanian Government and take over part or all of the island? As a matter of fact, history indicates that as far back as 1919 suggestions were made that the Commonwealth take over this Island. Like my colleague Senator Wriedt, I welcome the ushering in of a more modern approach to navigation. I believe that the Minister, as it were, does not live by bread alone. I think we are entitled to know the mechanics of the inner Cabinet because at times it makes me dizzy when Government supporters start talking about Commonwealth acquisition of land. In this case the Department of Shipping and Transport is involved. No-one can tell me what role the Department of the Interior plays. I know it is a sort of land broker. I think I have made my points abundantly clear to the Minister as to what the future holds for the existing work force of the lighthouse service and the custody of the islands where we have lighthouses.
Finally - Senator Wriedt is far more competent to expound this theme than I am - if we reach the stage when ultimately there will be a complete push button type of navigation with no more lighthouse keepers, does this mean the Government is going to be like Pontius Pilate and wash its hands of these islands? It may be a swan song for all I know but I would like the Minister to introduce legislation and say, for example, to my colleague the honourable Tom Casey of South Australia: ‘Look, I am making you a gift of this island as a permanent sanctuary. It is legislated for. If big industrial giants like Comalco or Broken. Hill Pty Co, Ltd want to take over the island, that will have to be justified in the Senate*. I leave those thoughts with the Minister.
– in reply - 1 appreciate the honourable senator’s reference to the fact that man does not live by bread alone because in the interest of losing some weight I shall have to stop living by bread alone fairly soon. This is an important measure to the Senate, As honourable senators opposite have mentioned we are not going to take up a tremendous amount of our time but nonetheless it is something that should not be passed over lightly. I appreciate the contribution made by Senator Wriedt and
Senator Mulvihill to this general discussion. This measure really deals with a change in terminology because of a change in scene. In our youth things which we looked upon as lighthouses and lightbuoys have now become marine navigational aids. This flows out of advanced technology and communications and all the points mentioned by Senator Wriedt. Naturally as the years pass I think these aids will be further extended. We will again see changes in methods of position fixing, the directing of vessels and safety on the sea. The same remarks apply to the Department of Civil Aviation which it is my privilege to be involved with at this moment. We find that new methods of establishing safety for people in the air and new methods of communications are coming up all the time.
There has been a great increase in the number of coastal lights around the Australian coastline. Yet we have had our attention drawn to a decrease in the number of people who are employed as lighthouse keepers. This is a natural result of a changing technology. Like other honourable senators I would be concerned if those people who had lost their positions did not find some gainful alternative employment and if they were in any way surplus on the labour market. But they are skilled, trained and dedicated people and I would have no great fear for their future. I imagine that being trained people and people who live in isolation they are hard to find and the natural changes and wastage in the system should adequately take care of any of these personal problems. If this does not happen I would expect the Minister and the responsible departmental officials to be concerned about any such problem.
As we have read, we are now dealing with radio beacons with which to navigate in fog and bad weather. Developments have taken place in this scene which may be of interest to the 2 honourable senators who spoke and to anybody else interested in this matter. The great changes in design and operation of ships makes the ships’ time much more valuable than .ever and increases the need for a much more modern and highly efficient aids system. The Department of Shipping and Transport is critically examining existing aids and taking steps to match their performance efficiently and economically against the current needs. Additional navigational aids are being steadily built to cover new routes and the introduction of sophisticated electronic navigational systems is being planned. To illustrate this I point out that a Decca Navigator Chain was commissioned in May 1970 at Port Hedland to enable the largest sizes of ore carriers to use that port. I had the good fortune to be in Port Hedland about a week ago today. I saw the port and the installation and I was able to make some observations on how important it is. It is very interesting that the Western Australian coastline which is going to have tremendously increased shipping because of the great mineral developments in that State is a coastline subject to very great tidal fluctuations.
In one inlet the tidal fluctuation is about 32 feet. This was where it was established that there was a case for tidal electric power generation. The capacity of the tidal movement in that bay was sufficient to generate enough power to supply 4 States. This is the order of water movement in that long, lonely and exposed coastline. This allows huge tankers to approach the port with safety, to turn round with safety and to load quickly and move efficiently. It is quite a remarkable achievement that some of these ports will handle 2 or 3 ships a day. They will come in, load and turn round. This illustrates the necessity to have the most modern and precise navigational aids. I think the largest vessel that has loaded on the Western Australian coast is about 112,000 tons dead weight. As mentioned by Senator Wriedt and also by Senator Mulvihill, I think, bulk ore carriers are being commissioned - which could be of about 350,000 tons. Some of even greater size are planned. The ability to bring these huge vessels in safety to the Western Australian ports, load them and turn them quickly will be a marked factor in establishing an economic transport chain between the mineral resource in Western Australia and the country of its usage. This will have a marked effect on Australia’s economy and its own generated wealth as the years pass.
In addition to this, a new lighthouse has been built to mark the Rowley Shoals on the shipping track about 200 miles north of Port Hedland. As I mentioned in my second reading speech, additional navigational assistance is being provided in the Torres Strait area to increase the safety and efficiency of this route. There is an automatic tide gauge on Booby Island to measure and record and announce the depths in Gannet Passage. All honourable senators would be familiar with the lodging on a rock in the passage of the ‘Oceanic Grandeur’. We were all concerned about what might happen to its cargo of oil. Fortunately the oil was safely transferred to another ship and the ‘Oceanic Grandeur’ was able to return to Singapore under its own power for repair. I had the good fortune to be able to fly over the ‘Oceanic Grandeur’ soon after it lodged on a reef and I saw for myself what was happening. This incident occurred in a very remote area where the shallows are narrow and the tidal fluctuations are great. Navigational aids are of great importance along the shores of a country such as Australia which, as has been mentioned, is dependent so much on sea transport.
New lights are currently under construction in South Australia, Queensland and Tasmania to meet the changing requirements of the shipping industry. So I think it can be said that the Department of Shipping and Transport is continuously watching the developments and changes which are occurring to ensure that it’s work measures up to the needs for faster and safer communication and for the marking of dangerous obstructions. I am sure that it will be of interest to those honourable senators who have been involved in an examination of the legislation relating to off-shore petroleum resources that the Coral Sea islands territory is to have a lighthouse and 2 beacons. This is a new area attached to Australia which is to have its own navigational facilities. This is an example of new developments not only on the Australian mainland itself but also in adjacent areas. Australia has an immense coastline and an immense continental shelf. This shelf is in itself a great resource if wisely used.
It will be apparent to honourable senators from my second reading speech that the Government is drawing to its side additional constitutional powers. The original Lighthouses Act was based upon the lighthouses, lightships, beacons and buoys power of the Commonwealth under the Constitution. Because of its obligations under the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea the Government is drawing to its side the external affairs power. This aspect is covered in clause 7 of the Bill. I do not know whether the lawyers will agree with me, but I imagine that this is a stronger power. I have been informed by the Department of Shipping and Transport that it examines all new systems, many of which have certain advantages, but that not all of the systems to which some honourable senators have referred are suitable for coastal navigation. In many cases they do not provide sufficiently accurate fixes for navigational purposes. I think the Department can be demonstrated to have been fairly well ahead in installing the Decca facility at Port- Hedland without legislation being passed. I might say in passing that I was in Port Hedland last week and I saw the Decca navigational tower which had been installed. I knew at that time that on my return to the Senate I would have to accept responsibility for the Minister for Shipping and Transport for the passage of this legislation through the Senate and I thought to myself that somebody had shown a fair bit of foresight and courage in establishing the tower and getting it into business. This I think illustrates one of two things. It illustrates either a degree of risk taking which is unusual or some preparedness and forward thinking.
I think it was Senator Wriedt who said that the radio facilities are inadequate at some stations. The matters to which he was referring are dealt with by the coastal radio stations which cover the whole coastline. Navigational aids are not intended to be, in effect, radio stations. I think it would be useful to honourable senators if I were to read some of the notes which have been provided for me on the clauses of the Bill. Minor changes in the regulations are necessary to remove the references to marine marks in line with the principal Act. The drafting of these minor changes is in hand. The long title of the Principal Act describes it as an Act relating to lighthouses, lightships, buoys and beacons. The Act is being amended to broaden its scops so that it will cover the types of marine navigational aids which have been brought into use during recent years and which were not envisaged when the Act was first drafted. Reference is made to the collector of customs being the chief officer of customs in any port. This has been necessary because the officers at some ports are not chief officers. Because of the increasing dependence on shipping in the remote coastal ports of Western Australia in particular as well as in the Gulf area of the Northern Territory a change is needed in this definition as only one or two people are involved in customs duties in some places. For instance, the customs office in Port Headland is quite small. I do not think that a chief officer would be employed at such a small port.
I have mentioned the marine marks. I think I have covered the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea. Clause 5 extends the application of the Act insofar as the levying and the collection of light duties is concerned to the new Coral Sea Islands Territory. The provisions of the Act will continue to apply to the Territories of Papua and New Guinea and Cocos (Keeling) Islands except in relation to light dues. Clause 5 also provides for the Governor-General to extend the same application to the Act by proclamation to any other Australian external territory as may be considered desirable from time to time. Quite a long explanation has been provided in relation to clause 6, which relates to the Government’s power to establish or alter lighthouses. I think I covered this aspect in my second reading speech. Clause 7 relates to protection from actions. It is really designed to cover the automatic telemetric tide gauge at Booby Island in the Torres Strait.
– Why should the Commonwealth not be liable for any default which occurs in regard to the operations of this sort of equipment?
– The honourable senator has raised a fair question. In order to elucidate the honourable senator and myself I shall read out the notes which I have. If they are not adequate I shall ask my adviser to provide me with further information. By the introduction of the term ‘marine navigational aid’ in this provision the Commonwealth, the Minister and any Commonwealth officers are protected from an action or other civil proceedings in respect to any act, default, error or omission in relation to a marine navigational aid not covered by the exist ing words ‘any lighthouse and marine mark’. This provision is- being further amended to ensure that the Commonwealth, the Minister and any Commonwealth officer are protected from any action and so on by reason of any defect in a marine navigational aid. Hitherto, such protection was only provided in relation to an act, default, error or omission in relation to any lighthouse etc. A defect will not necessarily be caused by any act, default, etc. It has been thought prudent to include a reference to any defect however it occurs. I trust that that explains the situation satisfactorily. Clause 8 of the Bill relates to injuring lighthouses. Clause 9 relates to consequential amendments of the Principal Act.
Senator Mulvihill raised one or two matters. One thing which concerned him - and I tried to deal with this matter earlier - is the working conditions of lighthouse employees. All I can say is that these people come under the general provisions of the Public Service Act and Regulations. However, I have been informed that special help is given to people in remote areas. I understand that the Minister for Shipping and Transport takes a personal interest in this problem. However, I will look into h* further. I would expect that any specific problems which arise would be brought to the attention of the Minister for Shipping and Transport or a member of the other place by the individual concerned. However, if any case is brought to the attention of any honourable senator I undertake to see that it is looked into by the Minister. Senator Mulvihill raised the question of the future of various islands. It was really a hypothetical question. This is a matter of future policy. It would be very difficult for me as the representative of the Minister for Shipping and Transport in this chamber to be specific about this matter. I think the Minister himself would find it difficult. I believe that this situation will have to be dealt with if and when a change in title occurs or occupation of an area by the Commonwealth instead of a State authority is thought to be desirable in the national interests. I would indicate to Senator Mulvihill and Senator Wriedt that any queries they have raised which have not been answered by me so far will be answered by letter. The speeches which have been made by honourable senators will be examined. Senator Greenwood will also be advised on the legal point he raised. I trust that honourable senators will give the Bill a speedy passage through the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I draw attention to a matter to which the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton), who represents the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair), adverted briefly in his reply to the second reading debate. I note that clause 7 of the Bill proposes to amend section 12 of the Act. That section reads:
An action or other civil proceeding shall not be maintainable against the Commonwealth, or the Minister, or any officer of the Commonwealth, by reason of any act, default, error, or omission, whether negligent or otherwise in relation to any lighthouse or marine mark.
– The Crown can do no wrong.
SenatorGREENWOOD- I take the point. It is a matter of some concern to me that what might have been valid enough in 1911, when the Lighthouses Act was introduced, has less validity and, I suggest, ought to have less applicability in the 1970s. The amendment that is proposed by clause . 7 of the Bill is that the words ‘any . lighthouse or marine mark’ shall be omitted and that the following words shall be inserted in their place: ‘or by reason of any defect in, a marine navigational aid established or maintained by the Commonwealth’..
I listened with interest to what Senator Wriedt had to say and also to what the Minister said in reply. I gather that the efficiency of these aids is well recognised and that the risk of any defect, one might assume, is fairly remote. But my attention was drawn to this matter by what the Minister said in his second reading speech. In relation to the automatic tide gauge that has been established at Booby Island in Torres Strait, he said:
It is a matter of particular concern to the Government that, if through some mischance this gauge contributed in some way to a marine casualty, the Commonwealth could be held liable. At the present time the Lighthouses Act provides that an action shall not be maintainable against the Commonwealth by reason of any act, default, error or omission, whether negligent or otherwise, in relation to any lighthouse or marine mark. It is most important that the phrase ‘lighthouse or marine mark’ used in the Act be amended to include all types of marine navigational aids now installed, and that this be done as soon as possible.
In short, I understand that to be an indication on the part of the Commonwealth that this provision, which exculpates the Commonwealth from the consequences of any negligent act, or indeed of any intentional act, which causes damage to another person, should be so comprehensive as to avoid any possibility that the Commonwealth might be held liable on some occasion. It is a tremendously wide section. It grants to the Commonwealth an exculpation which is not granted to ordinary citizens. I raise this matter because I would like the Minister to give some justification or explanation of why this is so.
– Does the honourable senator know whether the Department of Civil Aviation is in the same position in providing navigational facilites?
– That I cannot say. Let me say in response to Senator Byrne’s interjection that in one sense the provisions with regard to the liability of air carriers, to a degree, would overcome that even if there were no such provision. I know that that is not a complete answer because those provisions relate only to passenger injury. But I contemplate that if these navigational aids have the efficacy that is claimed for them there will be. a greater reliance upon them by those who sail the seas than might otherwise have been the case. As I understood Senator Wriedt, that was the plea he was making and the justification he was setting forward.
What happens if, to use the Minister’s expression, through some mischance some marine casualty occurs? Not only does it mean that the ship owners suffer property damage; it also means that those who are on the ship or the dependants of those who are on the ship and lose their lives are denied any remedy whatsoever. I said right at the outset that this was a concept that did not raise 60 or 70 years ago the controversy or the concern that it does today. I would have thought that the better the provisions that are made the more ready the Commonwealth ought to be to accept liability.
– Does the honourable senator know what the international position is? Do other nations also claim total absence of liability?
– 1 do not know. I agree that that would be a relevant factor. That was the sort of area in which I thought the Minister might be able to provide some assistance. If this is a general rule that is applicable throughout the world, there may be some reason why Australia should not depart from the general provision; but, if Australia is adopting a rule which will exculpate the Commonwealth from liability, 1 believe that it ought to be a matter to which we give attention. I raise these matters because I would be grateful for such assistance as the Minister is able to give.
– 1 find myself in a unique situation. I think it would be akin to that of Ernest Bevin who, on one famous occasion, followed Lord Birkenhead on some sort of a legal commission in England. If Senator Cavanagh were here, perhaps he would take up the mantle of the layman. I might have a rough concept of justice. Senator Greenwood has referred lo the matter of the immunity of the Crown. He has implied that in the event of a mishap occurring a shipping company might claim that the. navigational aid was faulty and therefore the Commonwealth was to blame. Far be it for me to question what is. in the mind of the Minister or the Cabinet, but let me take the matter a stage further.
Senator Wriedt referred to the ‘Oceanic Grandeur’ disaster. The plain fact of the matter is that due to the mazes in the legal system nobody has clarified the issue of responsibility. We do not even know whether that case will be decided in a Hong Kong court or in an Australian court. We do not want to hold up this legislation; but, speaking in an individual capacity, I will say that, until it is clearly established once and for all that when the oil companies make a blunder they are liable to a heavy fine, if I were the Minister I would not give two hoots as to what liability or what coverage we gave the oil companies and their tankers. They are thumbing their noses at the Australian people.
Last year we peppered Senator Cotton with questions day after day. Senator Keeffe, Senator Lawrie and others did that. But we still have not received the answers. I do not blame Senator Cotton for that. We have not received answers simply because the oil companies would not make an offer. Had they said to the Queensland Government: ‘We will pay $5m the problem would have been solved. But they never do that. So, as a representative in this chamber, I am prepared to use the Crown as an instrument to force big business to meet its liabilities.
– That is not the point.
– That is the way I see it. I am quite delighted that the Crown has immunity from action by the greedy shipping companies.
– I wai fascinated by that exercise by a nonlawyer. When one hears references to people lacking legal knowledge or having great quantities of it, one often wonders in which state one would be better placed. Unfortunately, one has to work in the profession to which one is. called at an early age. Senator Greenwood has raised a matter that requires an answer. As he understands and as all honourable senators understand, these answers are not coming out of the extensive store of my legal knowledge, r am informed that this protection from actions under section 12 is historical more than anything else and that the real justification for governments claiming this protection is a matter that is to be reviewed particularly when Australia gives effect to recent legal conventions which were negotiated at Brussels in relation to oil pollution and which touch on government responsibilities in this connection.
– That is all governments.
– Yes. That could well be the area in which this argument might finally rest. I believe that it would, rest on a broader base in that it would, have some legal convention under international law to reinforce it. Beyond that, I am unable to obtain any advice that bears on the problem. However, let me say that this is a point that has been raised in debates on other matters by Senator Greenwood and others. It touches upon the liability of governments as such and the proposition that they ought not to be able to exclude themselves. I cannot take it any further at this moment, other than to say that I will refer the views of honourable senators to the responsible Minister. I will indicate to him that honourable senators will expect to see this matter referred to when legislation comes forward for the purpose of ratifying a legal convention.
– I hope that the Minister will consider the 2 points that I raised and that an answer to them will be furnished in writing. Those points concern the power of radio receivers, especially round the Tasmanian coast where I understand they are inferior to mainland receivers, and the conditions of lighthouse staff.
– The honourable senator has my assurance that I will see to it that the responsible officer advises the responsible Minister of these matters and that an answer in writing will be furnished to his queries. Perhaps that will be more effective for the honourable senator’s purposes than to deal with those points ad hoc at the moment.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cotton) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 17 September (vide page 669), on motion by Senator Cotton:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The purpose of the Air Navigation (Charges) Bill 1970 is to amend air navigation charges. An examination of this legislation shows that it has been amended 9 times since 1959. We are now to consider an additional amendment, notwithstanding the fact that 2 years ago there was great controversy in Australia over the charges that the Australian Government was imposing upon airlines, with particular respect to inter-national airlines. As a result of that controversy a committee of the International Air Transport Association came to Australia to inquire into the matter. A committee of officers of the Department of Civil Aviation and representatives of the airlines was also set up to consider problems associated with air navigation charges. We are advised that the report of that committee is not available.
I do not want to enter into an argument with the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) or his officers about whether the report is available, but it was reported in the Press on 20th August last that the report was handed to the Minister on 14th July. It was stated that it is in 2 parts, 1 part having been compiled by officers of the Department of Civil Aviation, which agrees with the Government’s policy, and the other part having been compiled by representatives of the airlines. The part supplied by the airlines’ representatives is severely critical of the charges imposed by the Government and is said to be an addendum to the report.
It is alleged that because of the conflict between members of the committee the report is not available, despite the fact that several times it has been stated that there would not be any further increases in air navigation charges until that report were made available. I have made that passing reference to the report because I believe that we should be fully advised on all these matters at all times. There has been a shift in the principle of air navigation charges, particularly in the legislation now before the Senate, which makes those charges weigh more heavily upon the domestic airlines than upon the international airlines.
The schedule of charges set out on page 2 of the Bill is very revealing. Five sets of charges are applicable in each of the 2 schedules, one for the domestic airlines and one for the international airlines. It is well known, of course, that aircraft used by the domestic airlines are much lighter than aircraft used by the international airlines. Although a comparison of the schedules is rather difficult I propose to cite 2 figures. The fourth charge in the schedule for the domestic airlines is imposed on aircraft with an all up weight of more than 100,000 lb but not more than 200,000 lb. The charge is 20.62c per lb. The international airlines do not use aircraft within that weight category, but the charge shown in the schedule for international airlines for aircraft weighing more than 100,000 lb but not more than 200,000 lb is 18.75c per lb.
In view of the fact that the international airlines use heavier aircraft it is interesting to note that the charge per lb for the domestic airlines for aircraft weighing more than 200,000 lb is 22.63c, while the charge for international airlines for such aircraft is 20.57c per lb. The Boeing 707 aircraft has an all up weight of 328,000 lb and the Boeing 747, which has recently been used on international flights to Australia, has an all up weight of 700,000 lb. Those figures give some idea of how the charges are weighted against the domestic airlines. The categories in each of the schedules are as follows: Not more than 25,000 lb; more than 25,000 lb but not more than 50,000 lb; more than 50,000 lb but not more than 100,000 lb: more than 100,000 lb but not more than 200,000 lb; and more than 200,000 lb. No matter by how much the weight of an aircraft exceeds 200,000 lb. the charge is constant.
The last increase in air navigation charges was 10 per cent and was applied only to domestic airlines, not to international airlines. That resulted from interference by the International Air Transport Association. The weight scales were so calculated that the charges were actually increased by 20.7 per cent, instead of 10 per cent as outlined in the legislation. Overall it seems to me that the legislation requires domestic airlines to pay more than their share for the use of the navigational aids provided by the Department of Civil Aviation.
– Does not the frequency of use come into this? Domestic airlines would use these aids far more often than would the international airlines.
– This does not come into the charge. The charge for each use of the aids is separate. Domestic airlines certainly will pay more because they use the facilities more often. You are looking at a total figure contributed by the domestic airlines and the international airlines, whereas the Bill deals with each landing. Charges are set for each time the facilities are used. Certainly, on the basis of frequency of use, the Bill is weighted very much against the domestic airlines because each use of the services incurs a charge. 1. am not dealing with that aspect; I am dealing with a single use by either the domestic airlines or the international airlines.
By means of this legislation the Government last year collected $ 15.5m in air navigation charges. This year it is estimated that it will collect $ 19.25m. But these figures tell only half the story. We must look at the total picture of air navigation charges and the use of facilities at the various airports set out in the schedule to the Bill. I have taken certain figures from the Budget papers, Mr Acting Deputy President. The dividend paid by TransAustralia Airlines and Qantas must be regarded as income for the Department of Civil Aviation. Last year the sum collected was $25.521m and it is estimated this year that it will be $3 1.076m. I think that that figure has to be discounted against the amount that the Department outlays in navigational aids which this year is estimated to be $75m.
I think there has to be a closer look at what the Government intends to collect. The Minister has stated - no doubt he was stating Government policy and I do not quibble with this - that Lt is- the intention of the Government to collect the total of what should be properly attributed to civil aviation. The word ‘properly’ thus becomes very important. What should be properly attributed to civil aviation in this field? Should we discount the total sum expended for navigational aids by the benefit to community services? I refer to air services in outback areas which probably are the main line of communication for rural people, mining companies and others. Poeple know that in the north of Australia during the wet season roads are out of commission. Quite frequently other forms of communication are out because of cyclone activity. The only lifeline is. an air service, and this is not always available unless there are allweather facilities available at. airports. In many cases the airline is the only form of communication for quite lengthy periods.
What amount should be discounted from the cost of navigational aids for the provision of this community service? What amount should be discounted for national development? I take it that the Committee to which the Minister has referred will be looking at these sorts of things. I believe they should have been looked at long before this legislation was brought before the Senate. There is no doubt that air services and the aids provided for them play a very important part in Australia’s national development.
I think we should be considering how much these charges should be discounted for defence reasons. We know that there are several airfields in Australia that are used by the defence Services as well as by the Department of Civil Aviation. It was only quite recently that the Mirage aircraft operating out of Pearce Royal Australian Air Force base ceased using Perth airport for night flying exercises. Senators have been told during consideration in committee of the Estimates that it is anticipated that Learmonth airport in Western Australia will be the alternative airport for Perth. I do not know how this idea will fit in with . the requirements of the domestic airlines because Learmonth is 700 miles further on from Perth airport. Aircraft will have to be able to carry sufficient fuel to fly 1,400 miles in order to get back to Perth. This distance is greater than the operational capacity of the DC9.’Yet we have been informed that Learmonth is to be the alternate airport for Perth.
The Government has for a number of years neglected defence bases in Western Australia and has announced that it is going to do something about Cockburn Sound and that .it will upgrade Learmonth airport so that it can.be used by whatever aircraft - whether it be the Phantom or the Fill - is to be chosen for Western Australia’s defence. That is the very purpose of upgrading Learmonth airport. I could continue referring to these sort of things. There is provision in one of our Acts whereby the Commonwealth Government can commandeer all the aircraft owned by the domestic airlines and by Qantas for defence purposes. What amount should be discounted for defence purposes, from the cost of providing navigational aids?
This year the Department of Civil Aviation will collect $5m from rents and leases of parking lots, restaurants, bars and other facilities provided at airports. But when is the Department going to start charging the Department of Customs and Excise for the customs facilities built at airports? When is it going to charge the Department of Immigration and the Department of Health for the facilities provided for them at international airports? It must be remembered that the biggest costs involved in providing navigational facilities are for facilities for international services. Many of the facilities provided at the international terminals are hot required at the domestic terminals, yet they are put there and the domestic services have to contribute to their cost.
I think it is time that the Department decided that other departments should have to pay for the cost of these facilities. It probably would involve only a book entry, but if there were charges for the use of these facilities by other departments at airports it would have the effect of reducing the deficit between what the Department recovered for services provided and the amount expended on the services. We should consider also how much of the excise on fuel should be devoted towards offsetting the cost of the facilities provided. If a road is constructed or if a school is built an annual charge is not made on the people who use the facility and that charge is not increased each year.
The construction of runways and taxiways is a very heavy liability in navigation charges. None of the excise on fuel is used to offset the charges that are made against the industry. At this point it is interesting to observe that, despite the fact that heavy overseas aircraft require very much stronger runways and taxiways, the international airlines do not pay the excise that will be imposed by a Bill that will come before the Senate within the next few days. The payment of this excise falls only on the domestic airlines. When these matters are added together, it can be seen that the weight of charges is very much against the domestic airlines.
Some airlines have ceased to operate many internal services under the Government’s policy of airline companies providing commuter services. Many small airlines that provide these services have cropped up. What will be the effect of the continual increase in air navigation charges on these small airlines? Already some of them are in financial difficulties. I know that one in New South Wales has called in the receivers because at present it has some hundreds of thousands of dollars outstanding. Many of the others are in very great financial difficulties because of continually increasing costs. If these commuter services reach the stage at which they are unable to continue to operate, the people who require and, in fact, are most in need of the services - that is, country people or people in rural or outback areas - will be left without them.
On this occasion the attack upon the airlines has been most severe because not only has there been a 10 per cent increase in air navigation charges but also - perhaps I should not refer to the others - there has been a 3c increase in the excise on fuel and now the Postmaster-General has notified the airlines that he proposed to reduce by 29 per cent the amount that the Department is paying for the carriage of mail. We should remember that the 2 domestic airlines-
– Did the PostmasterGeneral determine that or did the airlines determine that?
– 1 would say that it was a Cabinet decision. The matter does not come before the Senate. The Post Office is a business concern. It can charge what it likes. I suppose, under the agreement between the Post Office and the airlines, the airlines are forced to carry the mail. It is an arbitrary decision by the Postmaster-General or a direction by Cabinet.
– Does not the PostmasterGeneral have to pay what the airlines ask?
– I do not think so.
– Would not that be the normal thing?
– A fair sum would be involved. The 2 domestic airlines - Ansett Transport Industries and TAA - at present have incomes of approximately $2m a year from the carriage of mail. This must fall considerably if the Postmaster-General reduces the amount that is paid for the carriage of mail. Despite the fact that postal charges have been increased as a result of the Budget, the cost of posting a letter having risen from 5c to 6c, the
Postmaster-General proposes to reduce the amount that is paid for the carriage of mail.
The schedule to which I referred earlier seems to contain a hidden subsidy to the international airlines. I do not quarrel with that at this time. At some other time I would, but if there is to be a subsidy to the international airlines we should recognise it when we study these charges. It is not fair to say that some preference is to be given to international airlines and at the same time to say that the total costs properly attributable to civil aviation will be recovered. If there is to be a hidden subsidy, the charges must be discounted in accordance with it. Those are the criticisms that I make of the Bill on this occasion.
On previous occasions I have said that, if we were not provided with the report of the -IATA committee that came to Australia, I would move in the Senate for a tabling of that report. I think we should have been provided with that report before this Bill was introduced. I know the difficulties that the Minister and his departmental officers face when they try to provide these reports. Inquiries were made because 8 airlines objected to paying the navigation charges imposed by the 1968 Budget. A committee of inquiry was set up. We should have been provided with that report before further increases were contemplated by this legislation. I shall move for the tabling of the papers in the autumn session if they are not tabled before then. The charges do not come into operation until 1st January. When the report is available it may be necessary for an honourable senator, by a private member’s Bill, to attempt to amend the legislation by deleting many of the unfair provisions in it. Those are all the criticisms that I propose to make of the legislation at this time.
Sitting suspended from 5.44 to 8 p.m.
– The Senate is discussing the Air Navigation (Charges) Bill 1970, and I support the Bill. Whilst it may bring no pleasure to any honourable senator to deal with a Bill which increases charges in regard to any matter, there is some pleasure for senators in having the opportunity to discuss some aspects of the airline industry. The Department, the previous
Minister and the present Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) deserve congratulations for the regular presentation of reports to this Parliament. The Department has much to do with the trading operations Of a very important industry for Australia and it reviews our civil aviation activities and is able to present to the Parliament some suggestions either for decreases or moderate rises in charges to the industry. Whatever may be the position throughout the world, we in Australia can be proud of our airline services. Indeed, our domestic airlines are things of which I am particularly proud. When travelling by either Ansett Airlines of Australia or Trans Australia Airlines 1 find that the services are particularly fine. The quality of the facilities which we as travellers enjoy is beyond argument. We have a standard of safety of which we can be proud. This is perhaps something which is not discussed generally in the community, but we must surely be proud of our safety record. The Department and the various airlines within Australia have given us a standard of safety which is not surpassed anywhere else in the world. The facilities which are provided by the Government, through the Department of Civil Aviation, are of an excellent standard. I believe that those who find their interest in flying or their livelihood in flying, or who add to their income earning facilities by the use of airlines, perhaps in the business world or in the field of tourism, enjoy facilities of which we can be particularly proud. In the last few years there has been quite a deal of rural development from civil aviation, and that development is something which we must maintain. We must see that whatever is done through parliamentary legislation the development of rural facilities is not inhibited in any way by the raising of charges. Our development of aviation travel in the last 15 years has been something of a miracle, and today if we look at our major airfields and the major equipment that goes to provide our air travel we can certainly say that we have kept abreast of that which is provided anywhere else in the world.
The measure before us is one which some may say has a substantial impact on charges. I think this needs to be scrutinised. Perhaps the criticism of the measure heeds to be evaluated. I am led to believe that this measure will raise charges to the various airlines from $ 15.5m a year at present to approximately $J9m a year. One may see that that is not an enormous amount of increase to be debating. From figures I have, the 10 per cent increase in charges to domestic air services, which will be effective only as from 1st January 1971, is likely to cost the domestic airlines about $350,000 in the year 1970-71 and approximately $850,000 in a full year. Airline passenger revenue in the year 1970-71 is estimated to be approximately $180m. So the additional charges payable in that year will be less than one-fifth of 1 per cent of the revenue. In 1971, when the higher charges will be applicable for a whole year, the increase will represent less than one-half of 1 per cent of the passenger revenue.
Those figures do not appear to be particularly significant. Undoubtedly, the airlines do not wish to hear of increased charges. Indeed, over the whole ambit of charges that will be raised in accordance with the recent Budget announcements, the amount that the airlines must pay to the Government will be much greater than those figures that I have given. I took some advice from one or two of the airlines. A representative of one of the smaller airlines told me that he considered that the air navigation charges were reasonable in relation to the facilities enjoyed. However, he went on to complain somewhat bitterly about the increased fuel tax which will be imposed. But I imagine that it would be the wish of all of us that all airlines continue to make a profit from their operations. The cost of the facilities provided by the Government is such that we certainly cannot see as an alternative perhaps a private airline or some type of financing body providing those facilities. I would agree that administration by the Department of Civil Aviation is certainly the only basis upon which we should develop our facilities. 1 feel that the 2 major domestic airlines are very conscious of the economies to be gained. Although these 2 major airlines may have somewhat of a confined market - they have little or no competition - one certainly feels that in the businesslike approach of both these airlines we are really getting value for our money. If they have a complaint relating to the level of charges to be imposed shortly I think perhaps their argument should be evaluated.
– What is the meaning of this incantation we hear at airports that we cannot travel for another 3 hours because ‘of technical malfunction’?
– I know of the honourable senator’s great interest in the business of the airlines, and I suppose that does happen every now and again. I am not aware of any air service in the world where that does not happen. From my own experience overseas I know I have had to wait on one or two occasions. At least at the present time we do not have any complaint of being hijacked to another part of the world to be left there for a few days. I think there is quite a point in the comment of the honourable senator. It has been noted that at times aircraft do not even appear on the tarmac and passengers are not notified. Nevertheless, T imagine this happens with taxis. It happens with public transport. It happens with the railways. It may happen with any service. I think the honourable senator would agree with me that good airline services are provided for the people. Sometimes it is difficult for a member of Parliament to have the facts presented to him properly. I noticed in the ‘Australian Financial Review’ of 13th October this year that a writer spoke of the charges being raised by 10 per cent again this year. In referring to the $65m or so, which is apparently the cost of the facilities provided by the Department of Civil Aviation, the writer said:
To cover this figure the Government has been raising charges by the maximum of 10 per cent allowable each year for the past 12 years to a stage where Australia has now the highest charges in the world and is something like 3 or 4 times the international average.
I have heard the Minister refute some of those comments and I hope that when he is replying to the debate he will indicate whether the point that is put forward in the ‘Financial Review’ is factual. There is reason, in the excellence and the safety of the aviation service that we have, why the Government should seek to recoup the basic charges attributable to the provision of services, but I think there is some argument as to what those charges should be.
On that account I am a little inclined to take the attitude of those who criticise the general statement that has been made time and again that the Government seeks to regain from the airlines the cost of the service which is provided. I have heard this criticism during the time that I have been a member of this Parliament, and for many years before the present Minister for Civil Aviation took office this was stated to be Government policy. I think that is spelled out in the Minister’s second reading speech, but one point which has not been spelled out is the costs that are really attri.butable to the service which is provided.
If one takes from the Budget papers the total cost of operating the Department of Civil Aviation one finds an amount for the coming year in the vicinity of $72. 8m. I am unable to say whether there would be some deductions from or some additions to that amount, but I take the Minister’s statement to be pretty accurate when he says:
In. 1969-70 the total cost of operating and maintaining the departmental network of aerodromes and airway facilities, together with the meteorological services provided for civil aviation by the Department of the Interior, amounted to some $75m. On the other hand, the revenues of the Department attributable to the use of these facilities were only $20m.
I suppose we can be fairly pleased that the Minister goes on to say that a working group has been appointed - it was appointed by the current Minister’s predecessor - and has been studying civil aviation costs and revenues. If the Government’s policy is to increase landing charges by 10 per cent each year until we reach a stage where the costs which are attributable to the provision of these services are. met by the users of the facilities, it is time that we looked critically at the return from those aviation services and what really are the charges attributable to them. 1 think the Minister must agree with me that the general contention that these services cost S75m and return only $20m is not applicable in this instance. Although we have not available to us the information on costs and revenues which has been made available to the working group, we do know that the working group was charged with several terms of reference. I understand that they were as follows:
Guinea with a view to showing those costs applicable to different categories of airports and facilities.
To identify those costs separately as far as possible with all users of facilities. 3. (a) To examine civil aviation revenues with a view to relating those to expenditures.
The Parliament has not had the benefit of a report from that working group and 1 accept the Minister’s comment that the report has not been completed. I know that he will be pushing for it to be completed. But taking just one view of this matter, do we say that the total cost of $75m, in round figures, attributable to the Department must eventually be met by landing charges paid by various airlines and private users? This seems to be a rather large burden to impose on them. For instance, should we not attribute some part of the cost to the provision of future defence facilities? This cost must surely be particularly great. Then something must be attributed to national development. I imagine that there would be extreme costs associated with the provision of some of the outback services to areas of our mining operations at present. The irregular flights into those areas and the provision of associated services would represent probably a very heavy burden on the Department of Civil Aviation. The costs of these services are being met in part by the higher landing charges on our commercial jet airlines which operate, more frequently. Again, should we suggest that the smaller jet services, the rural agricultural services or the commuter services must pay the increased charges so that eventually they help to meet the cost of $75m? I feel confident that when the Department presents the report it will be found that many of the charges which we are suggesting are contained in that $75m will not be attributable to the provision of services.
In an attempt to gain some information on this point I found a report in the Financial Review’ of the date to which I referred previously. The writer of the article suggests that he has some information on the propositions put forward by the domestic airlines in arguing that they should not be charged these increased amounts or that the amount that they are paying at present more nearly equates the cost that is attributable to the domestic airlines. The writer in the ‘Financial Review’ stated:
For instance, the commercial airlines said they could not be held responsible to all the costs relating to rural, locally owned, general aviation and Papua-New Guinea airports and facilities as well as the $330,000 which Cocos Island costs each year.
They also said only SO per cent of the cost of major non-capital city airports should be attributable to the airlines. The rest was a charge to. national development and community benefit.
The total of all these is $19.1m
Cost attributable to defence needs totalled another $8.4m, the airlines said. ‘
This lowered the $65m the Government claims is attributable to civil aviation to $34.5m.
Then the article goes on to say what the airlines apparently put up in relation to the revenue side, lt stales:
On the revenue side, the airlines discounted their $27in total to exclude money earned by national development airports and came up with a total of $24.4m a year as the Government’s share of aviation revenues.
This, they said, was 10S per cent of corrected costs.
– From what is the honourable senator quoting?
– The ‘Australian Financial Review’. Apparently it had access to the case which was put forward by the domestic airlines. I am afraid that I did not. Therefore, I am quoting this, lt would appear from the article which I have quoted that the domestic airlines believe that they are finding over 100 per cent of the total amount which is attributable to costs at present.
I have one comment to make in relation to the disparity which was referred to by. the Minister for Civil Aviation between the expenditure of (75m by the Government on the facilities provided and the revenue: of $20m which is attributable to the use of these facilities. I refer to the tax which is imposed on aviation fuel. I believe that last year the local airline operators paid somewhere in the vicintity of $14.2m in fuel tax. One cannot discharge from one’s mind the throught that this amount recoups some of the expenditure incurred by the Government in providing the facilities and services which these operators enjoy. The. increased air navigation charges would be more than justified if one were to take into account only the disparity between the revenue received for the facilities provided and the cost of providing these facilities, but I think one has also to take into consideration the amounts which some operators are paying by way of fuel tax. A small company which operates in my State of Victoria has informed me that the recent increase of 3c a gallon in the cost of aviation fuel will cost it in the vicinity of S400 a week for one jet aircraft. This company has informed me further that it pays over $70,000 a year in fuel tax alone. I believe that these things must be taken into account when one is considering a statement to the effect that by introducing the new air navigation charges the Government is attempting to recoup for the people of Australia the cost of the facilities which are provided for aircraft operators.
During question time today I asked the Minister for Civil Aviation what percentage of the cost of a gallon of aviation fuel the fuel tax represented. I have had the pleasure of putting this question to one or two of my Senate colleagues, who were amazed to learn that the tax on jet and turbo jet fuel represents approximately 85 per cent of the cost of each gallon of fuel.
– What are the overseas figures?
– I am unable to say. The Minister for Civil Aviation himself was unable to say what impact the fuel tax has on a gallon of fuel. Jet aircraft are very big burners of fuel and the fuel tax is very high. I think the cost of fuel overseas is lower than it is in Australia. Legislation which the Senate will be discussing at a later stage relates to the application of the new tax to, as I understand it. fuel which is used by international jets, which would indicate to me that in actual fact it would be cheaper for an international aircraft to refuel overseas than to refuel in Australia.
The whole argument boils down to the fact that in Australia we have among the best civil aviation facilities in the world. The Department of Civil Aviation, the Minister for Civil Aviation and the Government must be congratulated for the services which are provided at present. I have quoted ari article which indicates that one airline company believes that the air navi gational charges are reasonable for the facilities which are provided. But this does not mean that it is happy at having to pay such charges. I will be very pleased to see the report which is being prepared on this subject. I feel that it will discount substantially the disparity which the Minister has said exists between the amount the Government receives by way of air navigation charges and the cost of providing landing and navigation facilities.
The Minister has said that it costs the Government $75m to provide these services but it receives only $20m in revenue from them. I believe that we will hear a very much different story in 6 or 12 months. In the interests of travel throughout Australia I hope we will hear a different story. Air travel is a way of life in Australia now. Many businessmen fly between Sydney and Melbourne or the other capital cities to conduct their activities. The Minister-in-Charge of Tourist Activities (Senator Wright) will appreciate that in many areas tourism is based purely upon what can be done by air travel. Commuter services benefit the rural areas. The agricultural industry has benefited from aerial services. I believe that some of the services which are provided at present will be in jeopardy if the Government continues to adopt the principle of attempting to equate two unreasonable figures. At present the disparity is $55m.
I feel confident that the increased charges will be accepted because, as I said earlier, the increase which is to be applied is not very great. I think the Minister will point out that the increased charges represent less than one-half of one per cent of the total income derived by the domestic airlines from fares. I feel confident that we will find that the increasing charges every year will level off. Whilst our airlines continue to develop at the rate at which they have developed and continue to provide the services which they have been providing I feel confident that the Government has made the right decision to correct the charges which are imposed. I regret that the increases are necessary, but I congratulate the Government for the services which it provides for Australia.
– The Bill before the Senate seeks to give effect to one of the proposals outlined by the Treasurer (Mr Bury) in his Budget Speech. It is a Bill of a character - there have been a number of them since the bringing down of the Budget - which does not purport to raise revenue as such to go into Consolidated Revenue: it is designed to recoup charges which are being imposed due to the operations of authorities such as the Department of Civil Aviation which, in the concept of finance by the Government, warrant recoupment from the airline operators in order to equate expenditure and revenue. This principle is an accepted one providing one accepts what is behind it. If the airline operators are to be regarded as authorities which provide a service they should bear the charges which are imposed on them. In this way I suppose the Government’s approach is quite justifiable and I have no quarrel with it. For that reason the Australian Democratic Labor Party supports on this occasion the Bill which is before the chamber. However, it proposes to move an amendment to the Bill in relation to a particular aspect of it during the debate on the motion for the second reading of the Bill.
As I said earlier, what we have to examine is the principle which is being applied by the Government in its assessment of the role which is played by the aircraft operating industry in Australia. In a most informative speech Senator Webster pointed out that the airlines have a role in the Australian way of life which is quite separate from merely the providing of transport by air over our vast continent.
This being a vast and sparsely populated continent the necessity for air lift is vital not only to the convenience but to the development in depth of the continent and to the dispersal of the population. The airlines are playing a complementary role in national development and in the dispersement of Australia’s people from the hinterland right through the continent. It does appear that there is a basic fallacy in trying to estimate the role of the airlines purely as transport authorities, discharging that function for commercial purposes. That the Government has regarded them in this way is implicit from the history of the repeated presentation of Bills of this nature over the years. The charges are repeatedly recouped by the presentation of annual bills such as this one with increased imposts of 10 per cent equated with the increased cost of landing charges and things of that nature.
When we see the history of the periodic presentation of bills of this character it is inevitable that the conclusion is drawn that the Government is relying in its approach to the operation of the airlines on the principle I have mentioned. It is suggested - and I think it is a concern shared by people in this Senate from all parties - that that is not the correct principle. If that principle is persisted in a totally unfair burden will be imposed on the airline operators and on those who, by choice or necessity, have occasion to use the airline services. An alternative principle has been canvassed on a number of occasions in this Senate and no doubt in the whole Parliament. The Government has been persuaded to have this matter looked at to see to what extent an analysis of cost should fairly be borne exclusively by the airline operators - and therefore by the’ paying public - and to what extent a lot of those costs should be computed as being costs incidental to and necessarily arising from its contribution to national development so that the airline operators and the public should, pro tanto, be relieved of that element of cost.
A little over 12 months ago when a similar Bill to this was before the Senate the attitude of the Democratic Labor Party was that in view of the fact that a Government interdepartmental committee was investigating this question of the fair distribution of costs between the operators and the Government itself and in view of that inquiry proceeding along the lines indicated by Senator Webster the Bill was in the nature of a holding measure merely to equate costs to charges at that stage. As the report could be expected to be presented in the intervening 12 months no further charges after that would probably arise. That report has not been presented. I think we are entitled to express our very grave disappointment at the long delay in the presentation of the report by the committee which , was established. If this delay goes on any longer than next year we will have a further request by the Government, for a similar increase or a parallel increase in .charges.
When. Senator Cotton rises to’ speak he will close the debate. Therefore, he has suggested that I mention that he has assured me that the committee has completed a considerable amount of its investigations. Part of its report is to hand but the third or fourth head of reference has not been fully canvassed, nor has a conclusion been reached. But the Minister is confident that the committee will be in a position to bring in its conclusions within the next few months. Certainly whatever recommendations the commitee may present, if they are accepted by the Government and if they are along a certain line they will be implemented before the next Budget and will preclude the representation of a Bill of this character. In those circumstances the Democratic Labor Party on this occasion is prepared to support this Bill. We feel that the airlines are making a great contribution to Australian development and to the convenience of the Australian public. In a State such as Queensland which has a vast network of airlines to substantial cities and towns in remote parts of that vast State the air service is the only mode by which with any convenience of speed there can be passage from one place to another. The same remarks apply to Western Australia.
We realise that the airlines must operate on a commercial basis. Until some other formula is discovered they are acting, to some extent, in the role of the railways. For years in many places the railways have been allowed to run at a loss. On a question of. cash-in cash-out - that is on a cash budget basis - the picture would be very gloomy. . The argument has always . been presented that in what one might call a national economic budget’ the railways contribution brings them out on the credit side. In similar circumstances the airlines would be in the same position. But while they operate on a commercial basis they have, therefore, on a cash-in cash-out basis to attempt to secure profits and it is only reasonable that a recoupment should take place. It is regrettable that the increasing cost from year to year has been so regular, persistent and recurrent that there have been 8 or 9 Bills of this nature each year increasing the charges by 10 per cent or thereabouts. It is bad because it reflects a deteriorating economic situation generally.
But in the circumstances with which we are faced with the airlines, the imposition of these further charges is inevitable.
We must recognise that the airlines of Australia are making a magnificent contribution not only to Australia but also to world aeronautics. They have a magnificent safety record. They have a record of service. They have a record of efficiency and a record of courtesy. At times we have occasion to be impatient with breakdowns in service and schedules. In an operation such as this it is inevitable. Because of the peculiar economic method of the operation of the airlines where the capitalisation is so heavy in aircraft the companies cannot afford to have aircraft standing on the ground because a few minutes lost here or there is going to have very severe consequences in the holdup of traffic. But this is one of those things which is unavoidable. Nevertheless with all the criticism which we often have occasion to direct ourselves 1 feel we are proud of our internal airlines. We recognise that they operate under certain disabilities, particularly the air landing charges which are high. They are probably the highest in the world for domestic airlines. 1 come now to the second disability under which they suffer and that is that compared with the international airline operators they are required to pay a heavier charge than the international airlines. It is difficult to discover just why this is so. Perhaps it is because we have attempted to secure increased, improved and more frequent international services as a matter of international prestige and communication. We have to realise that if the international airlines are relieved of charges as compared with the domestic airlines, then to that extent it will be necessary to increase the impost on the domestic airlines. Whether that is equitable or not is the very big question for determination. I understand that is one matter which is before the interdepartmental committee to which I have referred and that it will be one of the subjects of its examination and ultimately of its conclusion, determination and recommendation. However, we feel that because this does impose a severe disability on the domestic airlines compared with the international operators. at this stage the Senate might attempt formally to put on record its concern at this discrimination.
I understand that if the international airlines were required to pay according to the proposed domestic rate it would involve an extra amount which, according to the method of computation, could be between $20,000 and $750,000. If the higher figure is accepted for the sake of this argument then we must recognise that relieving international operators of paying that amount imposes a corresponding additional burden on the domestic operators and on the domestic patrons, on the Australians who use air services throughout the length and breadth of this country.
I do not think that that is a good principle. After all, I suppose that in the ordinary daily life of Australians it is the domestic airlines which have greater demands on their services and if any section of civil aviation is to be relieved of any impost or any increases then it should be the domestic airlines. Therefore the Democratic Labor Party proposes an amendment to the motion for the second reading of the Bill which 1 shall now read to the Senate. I move:
After the words ‘That the Bill be now read a second time’ the following words be added: ‘, but the Senate is of the opinion that the charges imposed on domestic and international airlines for the use of Commonwealth aerodromes and facilities should be at an identical rate for all aircraft of the same type’.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - Is the amendment seconded?
– 1 second the amendment and reserve my right to speak.
– We know that the charges are individual landing charges. After all, if an international airline puts its aircraft down in Australia 10 times a month theo it pays the landing change on only 10 occasions. Against that the domestic airlines will pay the charge on, perhaps 300 occasions if they land aircraft 300 times a month. It might be said that the domestic airlines use the airports more frequently but that is not the point. The point is that the charges should be the same for both domestic and international airlines because the demands on airport facilities, such as the accommodation provided for passengers, the condition of the apron, the condition of the runways, the control procedures and the navigation facilities, are the same for every flight. Therefore we suggest that there should be total parity in relation to the charges imposed on international and domestic airlines.’
In addition we point out that the domestic airlines are required to pay a very heavy fuel tax of which the international airlines are relieved. I am not attacking the international airlines. Our own international airline is one of which we are extremely proud. It is a matter of great national pride that our airline is well considered and has such a magnificent record. We would not want to do anything which might impede its further progress or which might in any way trespass upon the stature it now enjoys. Nevertheless we must recognise as a fact of life that the other airlines owned by other countries which operate to Australia, or which seek feverishly at times to do so and to have the opportunity of landing in this country, should not, as a matter of ordinary financial equity, be relieved of paying the landing charges which are imposed on domestic operators.
For the reasons 1 have given we of the Democratic Labor Party support the Bill. We hope that this may well be the last of this type of Bill that we will see in the Senate. We hope that within the next 12 months the report of the interdepartmental committee will be presented. We hope that it will express the principles put forward by honourable senators on all sides of this chamber and that a formula may be discovered and recommended - we trust adopted - which will result in a fair distribution between the charges legitimately imposed on national and international concerns and those costs which legitimately can be charged to national interest and national concerns. If that distribution is fairly made then we could expect that there will be no deterioration in our air services. On the contrary, legitimately and justifiably relieved of some of these burdens, we would hope that the domestic airline operators can further improve their services because their commercial financial margin at the moment is very limited and their area of manoeuvrability is very small: Therefore we hope that this will be the last Bill of its kind that we will see in this chamber. 1 assure the Minister for Civil Aviation that this chamber will be alert during the next 12 months to ask whether further progress has been made in the deliberations of that inter-departmental committee and when its recommendations are likely to come forward. In the meantime we feel that the Senate at least should convey to it our concern to see that the domestic and international operators pay the same charges. I seek support for our amendment from honourable senators although in general terms we support the Bill.
– I was interested in a comment made earlier in this debate by my friend Senator Cant. If I understood him correctly, he suggested that some thought was being given to making Learmonth airport the alternative airport for Perth. I do not know from where Senator Cant got this information.
– I got it from information given to one of the Estimates Committees.
– I am not aware of any plans to make Learmonth the alternate airport. The reasons against such a move are the very reasons mentioned by Senator Cant. Learmonth is some 850 miles from Perth. Without doubt the Learmonth airport when completed will be able to take the heaviest aircraft. My understanding is that the Department of Civil Aviation is carefully considering Kalgoorlie as the alternate airport. As Senator Cant knows so well, Kalgoorlie is very close to the east-west air route and therefore is ideally situated for this purpose. That is only a minor point but I thought it worth mentioning because I do not believe that Learmonth would be a suitable alternate.
This Air Navigation (Charges) Bill is before the Senate as part of the Government’s policy that as far as possible the users of facilities should pay for them. In the past this also was Australian Labor Party policy. I can recall having quoted speeches by the then Postmaster-General, whom I think was Senator Cameron, and by Mr Calwell when the Labor Government in 1947 or 1948 increased postal charges. In effect they then said that the policy was that the users should pay for the service. The Government accepts this as being a reasonably sound policy. I suppose support for this policy depends on whether one is in government or in opposition. It does not matter whether this is a philosophical or a practical point of view; I believe there is merit in the argument.
The fact of life in regard to air services is that the cost of the services and facilities provided by the Department of Civil Aviation in order to maintain safety and efficiency in aircraft operations is increasing. The cost is increasing together with the growing sophistication of aircraft. The newer aircraft require more sophisticated equipment in order to maintain safety and efficiency. One has only to look at what is happening because of the introduction of the jumbo jet, the 747, to emphasise this point. This is placing a heavy financial burden on the Department of Civil Aviation which continually has to provide improved services and facilities.
The figures relating to the cost of aviation facilities are quite interesting. In the last 3 years up to June 1970 the Commonwealth Government spent SI 05m on airports and aviation facilities. In Western Australia, alone the figure was $5 .7m. Much of that has been due to the introduction of modern jet aircraft by MacRobertsonMiller Airlines which has required the upgrading of navigation facilities at many airports in the State. In the last 3 years the annual cash cost of maintaining and operating airports and airway facilities and services in Western Australia has risen from $1.76m to $2. 3m, representing an increase of about 30 per cent. Those figures exclude depreciation, interest and administration charges. Let me take one airport, namely, that at Port Hedland. It is one of the major airports in Western Australia. The number of passengers passing through it has increased from, in round figures, 8,000 in 1964-65 to more than 51,000 in 1969-70. The cost of operating and maintaining that airport has risen from $165,000 in 1968-69 to $420,000 in 1969-70.
In 1969-70 the revenue obtained from air navigation charges in Western Australia amounted to only S500.000, or approximately 20 per cent of the cost of operating and maintaining the facilities. So, in one State alone there is a considerable or significant gap between the revenue and the costs. As other speakers have mentioned, the total estimated revenue in the current financial year is about 525m and the cost of operating the services and facilities is in the vicinity of $85m, leaving a gap of S60m. So, despite the increase in air navigation charges, a most significant gap remains. Senator Cant raised some interesting points when he was arguing that various proportions of the cost should be charged to defence, national development and so on. If we are to argue along those lines, surely we have to argue that the cost of runways, the cost of air terminals and all the other costs involved in air transport in Australia should also be related in some proportions to those various fields. Therefore, I am inclined to believe that, whilst his argument is interesting, in fact it is rather academic.
This increase in air navigation charges is not a serious cost burden on the airlines. Some figures that are available indicate that for a full year the increase in revenue as a result of the 10 per cent increase in air navigation charges would amount to $850,000. If we relate that to the estimated airline passenger revenue for 1970-71 of approximately $180m, we find that the additional charges that will be payable this year will represent less than one-fifth of 1 per cent of that revenue. In a full year they will represent an increase of less than one-half of I per cent of that revenue. Those figures do not justify any increase in air fares. International air services have come in for some comment. The 10 per cent increase in charges will raise the amount payable in respect of a large international aircraft of the Boeing 707 or DCS type by about $45. On the average passenger loadings on such flights, that represents about 70c per passenger. These are not substantial figures which alone would justify an increase in fares.
The argument is put that air navigation or landing charges in Australia are higher than the average overseas. I do not think this argument has been put forward seriously in the Senate today. As I understood Senator Cant and Senator Byrne, they both argued that there was a case for higher charges in respect of international aircraft rather than in respect of domestic aircraft. But it has been put forward and argued - I have actually heard it argued - that our charges for international aircraft are amongst the highest in the world. It is very difficult to make comparisons or to find a basis for comparison between charges in various countries because so many factors operate. I have here some figures which are of interest. When they are related to the movements of aircraft in the various countries, I do not believe that the criticism which has been levelled at us - namely, that our charges are too high - is justified.
In Australia there is only 1 charge, and that is the air navigation or landing charge. For an aircraft of the Boeing 707 or DCS type, the air navigation or landing charges in Sydney, including this 10 per cent increase, are $987. In Paris the air navigation or landing charges are $270, but other charges which have to be paid in respect of each movement amount of $482, making a total of $752. San Francisco is right at the other end of the scale. There the total air navigation or landing charges are only $43. In Rome the total charges are $270. But that is only part of the story. In 1969, for example, the number of aircraft movements at Sydney was about 82.000, made up of 71,000 domestic movements and 11,000 international movements. At Chicago the number of movements was 700,000: at the New York (Kennedy) Airport it was 400,000; and at San Francisco it was 300,000.
If my arithmetic is correct, the figure for Sydney represents a daily total of 225. Many of these movements are of smaller aircraft of the F27 type. The comparable figure for San Francisco is 871. That would represent, in the main, movements of larger types of jet aircraft. What these comparisons prove is that the facilities that are provided - presumably much the same facilities are provided at San Francisco and Sydney - are being utilised to a far greater extent at San Francisco than at Sydney or other Australian airports. Sydney would have the greatest number of movements of Australian airports. Therefore the overall revenue at San Francisco for the same type of facilities would be very much greater than at Sydney. Presumably the gap between revenue and operating costs would be a great deal smaller. What 1 have said does not prove very much, but it does illustrate the difficulty in making some comparisons of conditions as between one country and another.
I believe it is fair to say, taking into account all the factors I have mentioned, that our charges are not high by overseas standards. Perhaps a better comparison would be of fares. Again I issue a warning that various operating factors make comparisons difficult. Nevertheless, fares give us a basis of comparison and we should not ignore them. The first class air fare from Canberra to Sydney, a distance of 154 miles, is $11.90; the economy fare is $10.10. The first class air fare from Pittsburgh to Harrisburgh, a distance of 172 miles, is SI 7.80; the economy class fare is $14 20. So that I will not be thought to be loading the comparisons I will give some further examples.
The first class air fare from Canberra to Melbourne, a distance of 300 miles, is S26.70 and the economy class fare is $22.60. From Milan to Rome first class costs $26.40 and economy class $23.60. The fares in each case almost balance. The cost of first class air travel from Adelaide to Perth. 1,380 miles, is $89.70, and the economy class fare is $72.30. By air from Calcutta to Karachi is 1,360 miles, almost the same distance as from Adelaide to Perth. The first class air fare is $103.40 and the economy class fare is $79.80. lt is clear that by world standards Australian air fares are not unduly high and compare favourably with those of other countries.
Consideration should also be given to the benefits Australian airlines receive through the expenditure of taxpayers’ money over a wide network of aerodromes and sophisticated, high standard systems. Partly because of those systems Australian airlines have a safety record unequalled in almost every other part of the world. Again I stress that comparisons are difficult because conditions vary so much between countries. However, it is true to say that the navigation and other facilities provided for Australian airline operators are unequalled in any other part of the world. The Australian airlines receive through the expenditure of substantial sums of taxpayers’ money benefits which enable them to provide for air travellers in Australia a standard of safety and efficiency well up to world standards.
The growth rate in Australian aviation in past years has been truly remarkable. For domestic air travel it has been about 15 per cent annually, and for international air travel about 16 per cent annually. This is one factor that has enabled the airlines to maintain fares at a reasonable standard. The Minister in his second reading speech pointed out that it is the Government’s responsibility to keep within reasonable bounds the gap between costs and revenue. The alternative to charging the users of the air navigation facilities is to charge the taxpayers for the gap. Indeed, they are meeting a significant proportion of the. gap now. I believe it is common justice that the users of the facilities should be obliged to keep the gap within reasonable bounds. On the whole, increases in air navigation charges are not quite keeping pace with increases in the costs of servicing and maintaining the expensive equipment.
The Minister has indicated that a working group has been formed to study t he.COStS and revenue of the Department of Civil Aviation.- lt has various terms of reference. The group is comprised of representatives of the Department of Civil Aviation, the Treasury and domestic and international airlines, lt is a fairly representative group, lt has completed work on the first 2 terms of reference, but not on the third term. I think it is to the credit of the Minister and his Department that (hey are prepared to have these aspects examined by a representative group in order to find the best and fairest possible means of the Department’s achieving the desired end so that civil aviation will not become a complete burden upon the taxpayers.
Senator Byrne moved on behalf of :he Australian Democratic Labor Party an amendment which 1 find interesting. 1 cannot say that 1 am prepared lo support it because I would not be so bold as to suggest that charges imposed on international and domestic airlines for the use of Australian aerodromes and navigation facilities should be identical for aircraft of the same type. However, 1 believe that the suggestion contained in the proposed amendment should be referred to the working group. It may already have studied such a suggestion. I believe it is asking too much of us to seek our opinion on the suggestion without the advantage of more facts than have been presented to us. I suggest to the Minister that the working group should examine the proposal put forward by the Democratic Labor Party. I believe there is some justification for the argument that charges should be identical. Some people may argue that this would interfere with the growth in international air traffic, but it is a fact of life that the growth rate of international air traffic is about 16 per cent a year. The extra charges to be incurred are minimal bearing in mind the number of passengers carried and the distances flown. 1 have some figures which tend to prove my point and I will conclude by citing them. I think they are significant. They are certainly an answer to those who claim that the proposed charges will place an undue cost burden upon the industry. The charge for a Boeing 707 or DC8 type aircraft landing or taking off at Sydney will be increased by $494 as from 1st January 1971. This is equivalent to the Sydney to San Francisco economy class fare, or 80 per cent of the Sydney to London economy class fare. This is only a small additional cost item for the airlines. It might be of interest to the Senate to note also that the total air navigation charges for a DC9 flight between Melbourne and Sydney as from 1st January will be $71. That includes the 10 per cent increase. This is equivalent to the fares of fewer than 3 economy class passengers. On this very dense route, that represents less than 3 per cent of revenue earned on a normal flight.
I cannot accept the argument advanced by honourable senators opposite that the increased charges will impose a great cost burden upon the airlines. It is a burden which all of us perhaps regret, but I believe it is an inevitable one. I do not believe that it is justice that the taxpayer should have to bear the full cost not only of providing the ever-increasingly sophisticated equipment and facilities thai are required but also of bearing the operating losses which will inevitably occur in the provision of these facilities and services. While 1 suppose all of us regret increased charges, we are living in a world where the facts of economic life are paramount. The facts of economic life here are that unless these charges are met to a degree - not to a major degree - by the users of the services, they will have to be met by the taxpayers, many of whom never use the services.
I suppose that Australians are perhaps fortunate in that they have so many airports of high standard throughout the country. I do not know any country of comparable size which has so many international airports. 1 sometimes think that we have gone to extremes in that we are trying to provide too many international airports. By doing that we are playing up to the vanity of the States because apparently there is some prestige value in having an international airport. My view, which I have stated before, is that international airports should be provided only at points of entry into Australia. However, we have to live with the present situation. I express my concern at the ever-increasing cost in Australia of providing, and of continually updating and improving, airports and facilities for modern and sophisticated aircraft. This cost has to be met. I believe that there is justice in the argument that those who use these services and who benefit from them should at least in some small way pay for them
Therefore, I support the Bill. Whilst I find the amendment an interesting one and one which I believe should he examined, 1 am not prepared to express an opinion that it is desirable unless all the facts are known. I have suggested to the Minister that this matter should be examined by the working group and that the report should be made available shortly and certainly before the next Budget is presented.
– A good deal of the debate has been taken up by honourable senators arguing that because the charges involved in running all the aviation facilities in Australia are so heavy - they are heavy and growing heavier every year - any impost placed upon the operators by the Government would appear to be reasonable. The present position, following a similar increase on 1st January this year, is that an additional 10 per cent is to be applied to the charges from 1st January 1971. These 10 per cent increases have been part of the arrangements which the Government has made resulting from its airlines policy. I wish to make some comment on what Senator Sim said. He argued that at one time the Labor Party and the Labor Government agreed that the cost of operating the airlines policy within Australia ought to be met by the operators.
– 1 did not say quite that. 1 referred to the principle involved.
– There is a point in what the honourable senator said, but I atn trying to make a certain distinction which 1 think is accurate, that the Labor statements to which Senator Sim refers were made before the rationalisation policy was applied. I think 1 have raised this distinction already at a meeting of Estimates Committee D. People could give some support to a proposition based on the figures which the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) has mentioned of the operations last year. The cost of maintaining the various air strips and aerodrome facilities was $75m whereas income was only $20m. That poses the question whether, as Government senators have said tonight, the Government is justified in imposing the 10 per cent increase. We have something like a new position today because the Government has agreed that a working party, consisting of representatives from the airline operators. Treasury officials and representatives from the Department of Civil Aviation, should be set up. At present this Committee is examining to what extent charges might be debited to particular parts of the industry and to the economy. That suggestion has been made to the Government by the airline operators.
In my opinion, a large part of the present trouble arises from the Government’s rationalisation policy, in 1952 the Government decided to implement a policy which, to the Opposition anyway, to some extent limited competition. As part of that deal - this has been argued by the Government on many occasions in the Senate - a proposition was put to the airline operators that the increase in navigation charges in any one year would not be more than 10 per cent. A satisfactory result of such a rationalised policy is some kind of stability in the industry and a certain high standard, but a lowering of risk. As a result of thai arrangement, over many years the charges have been increased continually. The first year they were applied was 1952. A 10 per cent increase was imposed in 1960, 1961. 1962, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969 and 1970. The Government now proposes to impose a 10 per cent increase in charges to operate from 1st January next year. We have a kind of hit and miss proposition by the Government aimed largely at recovering some part of the costs which the Government has to bear to supply the services.
It is reported that because of pressure and complaints from operators and from people who are forced to pay extra to travel on the airlines, the Government has agreed to set up a committee. This committee has a certain commitment and certain terms of reference. The terms of reference are:
Mr Holt, an officer of the Department of Civil Aviation, at a hearing of Estimates Committee D, said:
The working group has completed its work on the analysis of costs and the identification of those costs with the users, lt has begun to examine the revenues willi a view to relating those to expenditures and as the Minister has. I think, told the Senate a report on those items has been prepared and submitted. The committee has to continue with its work on the last part of the third term of reference and on any other aspects of the first terms which you might wish to go over.
That is the proposition that has been put to us by way of questions to the Committee. My first proposition, which 1 put lo the Minister previously, was to what extent the present Government’s rationalisation policy brought in its train these regular increases of 10 per cent which we have always had to suffer in a period when the Government applies its general budgetary methods to recover revenues. The Minister fell back, on the argument - I do not blame him for doing so - that it was a Government policy long established, established before he became Minister. He could not really relate it at that stage to any practical purpose that resulted from this arrangement. It seems to me that this arrangement is just as important as the terms of reference of the present Committee. I must admit that the Minister in his usual co-operative way agreed that the matter might be worth inquiry and that he would give me a separate paper on the matter.
So what we are saying in relation to the question is that there are no proper definitions. lt is probably at this stage that those definitions ought to be spelt out. If this is not done, with the long delays in determining these things by the sorts of committees which have been set up, we will be faced year after year with 10 per cent increases which do not meet the needs of the industry, nor do they provide satisfaction to the airline operators who feel that they are being presented with many accounts which they should not be. One of the most unsatisfactory features in this whole discussion - this applies to some extent to the matters raised by Senator Byrne, that they are all part of a general mix-up - is that questions asked of the Minister in the Senate have produced answers about the Committee’s operations and most recently an admission that the Committee has completed one part of its work. But if we follow Press reports we can ascertain all the opinions and advice of the airline operators, although those opinions are not available to the Senate. It seems to mc that it is not satisfactory enough.
Senator Sim questioned whether anybody should contend that costs of rural development or costs of civil aviation facilities in Papua and New Guinea were worth arguing about. The airline operators are asking: Why should we pay for any part of the charges for national development? After all, these cost components will be determined by the Committee at some stage and, we hope, from the Senate. Why should they pay as part of their charges any part which is identified directly with rural development? Senator Byrne talked about the airlines being like the railways in developing certain areas. Why should they pay, for example, for all necessary aviation facilities and development in the Territories of Papua and New Guinea and Cocos Island.. Of course, when this is considered one wants to know why the Government does not establish guide lines for these matters. What we have been concerned about, of course, is that we can read in the Press the full contributions made by airline operators but we cannot get this information in the Senate.
It seems to me that what the Minister ought to do even at this late stage is to consider whether the legislation itself might not be put aside so that we may examine the available parts of the report which are already completed, ft has been confirmed by his own officers that certain parts have been completed. I presume this means that it is now possible to say how much of the cost of facilities should be directly charged to defence and how much the facilities might be charged to community services, etc. If these sort of specifications are available an arrangement obviously could be worked out with the airline operators which would be quite good. Some days ago the ‘Financial Review’ stated:
The report in fact has been complete for several months; the only problem is that it is in essence two separate reports.
The main one, from the public servants, supports the charges. The other, printed as an addendum, is a sharp dissent on almost every point by the airlines.
So for some time the Press has been publishing a number of points of information which we do not have and which, of course, ought to be available to enable us to have an informed debate on this matter. What we are saying again, as we said before, is that the procedures in discussing the annual allocation of 10 per cent in increased charges in this way without having some formula is simply a hit and miss method. As the Government itself has decided to set up the committee the Minister has a very good reason for saying that he will supply the completed parts of the committee’s report. If he does not do that, of course, there will be this continued dissatisfaction on the part of the operators who believe, as they have said publicly, that charges in Australia are considerably heavier than in most parts of the world. In contrast to this we have some information given by Senator Sim that in some European cities the charges are greater that] in Australia. This information ought to be placed before the Senate.
Let us consider what ought to be done at this stage if the legislation is passed. After all, the impost will bring in about $3,600,000, of which only about $850,000 flows directly from the domestic carrier charges. So the amount which is directly attributed to the 10 per cent charge is not too great. Most of it, of course, comes from the general growth of the operators. What, we want to know and what the Minister ought to be able to tell us now if the reports are available is this: What are the true costs of operation and how do they match navigation charges? If these true costs or evaluations are available as has been reported to the Estimates Committee, why cannot they be submitted to the Parliament? The Press has already said that they are available. Some comments have been made in submissions to the Committee by the airline operators.
Another point which is important but which we do not know about because we have this 10 per cent rate of increase which was a primary part of the formula is this: What is the rate of depreciation of airstrip supplies, airport buildings and facilities? What is appropriate in ali the circumstances in different localities, and what transfers are made in relation to all the aspects of national development or defence commitments when depreciation is assessed? 1 presume, of course, these sorts of things are being examined at the present time. If they are being examined and if they have been determined they ought to be made available to the Senate. If this information was available to the Senate and if in addition we had some sort of calculation that I have spoken about in relation to the inhibiting factors that result from the rationalisation policy, the Senate and the Parliament would be able to say whether the charges are proper, whether they are fair on the airline operators. In that case we would not have this constant annual pressure which occurs every time this matter comes before the Parliament.
In supporting what Senator Cant has said, I want to add to Senator Sim’s remarks that the operators ought to pay a fair share of the cost of running our navigational aids. But. what I want to put to the Senate is that whatever questions are put either to the Estimates Committee or to the Minister, the sort of answers which ought to be made are not made. There ought to be some clear accounting in forms which are available, which are now being examined and, to some extent, have already been determined. I ask the Minister when he is replying to these matters to indicate whether the information given to the Estimates Committee is accurate or whether there have been any other developments since the Estimates Committee met a fortnight ago. The most important point of all is when the working group’s recommendations will be made known. If it has completed its so-called cost analysis and has considered the recommendations and submissions from the domestic and international airline operators, there seems to be no reason why the report should not be brought before the Senate quickly. The charges are npt to be applied until 1st January 1971. They are based on a formula and follow the 6. 7 or 8 charges which have operated in the past. In my opinion there is no reason why the information should not be given to the Senate so that we will be aware of the general objectives of the Department, which are stated as being to recover as much as is economically possible in relation to the operations and responsibilities of domestic and international airline operators, but not to impose upon them an obligation to pay for something which is clearly a national responsibility, whether it be in relation to national development, the extension of rural aviation services or defence purposes.
– How do you distinguish between what is economically possible for the airlines and what is properly a national responsibility?
– As T have mentioned already, it was admitted during the hearing by the Estimates Committee that this matter has already been examined by the working group. The broad approach of the Minister in this debate is the same as the approach that has been made on other occasions, whether it has been by the present Minister or his predecessors. When applying the new charges they have said:
For this reason the Government reviews .ils charges each year, taking into account all pertinent factors, including the economic situation of the users of facilities and the contribution which air services make to the national economy.
That is a very broad and blanket proposition. What the working group is now trying to do, as proposed by the Government after receiving many complaints from the operators, is to put these matters into special categories and to decide to what extent airports in various isolated parts of the country, for example, are more a defence or national development facility than a commuter or necessary community service. It is trying to decide to what extent intrastate services might be purely community services or to what extent certain airports are defence establishments. There was some talk about Cocos Island where the Department spends about Sim each year. Obviously it would not be reasonable to argue that this amount or any portion of it should be debited to domestic operators. We find the same situation in New Guinea where the amounts are very high - as much as S60m or S70m a year. Obviously matters of this kind have been submitted to the working group. There has been no Press leakage in respective matters of this kind, but we have seen in the Press much information which has come from the domestic and international operators but which has not been made known to the Senate. That is one matter about which I complain. If the information is available to the Press it should be available to the Senate.
Whether the report from the working group is complete or not, it seems to me that in presenting his arguments to the Senate the Minister could quite usefully inform us of the matters that has-e been studied by the working group. For example, he could give us information about cost studies. If these studies have been finalised it would be competent for him to use them and it is information that should be made known to the Senate. That is the sort of problem that we meet in this debate. Obviously increased charges follow almost every year, but this year we expected to have the report from the working group so that we could examine it to ensure that the proposed charges were reasonable, that they were not unduly high compared with charges in other countries and that they truly represented the cost of an obligation which the operators should accept. We should know also what part of the charge should be within the responsibility of the Government and should clearly come from revenue. I do not propose to say more at this stage. No doubt further discussion will develop from the debate on the amendment.
– An amendment has been circulated by Senator Byrne on behalf of the Australian Democratic Labor Party. Whilst it was fairly common knowledge before the suspension of the sitting that the Democratic Labor Party would be moving an amendment to the motion that the Bill be read a second time, the amendment had not been circulated. We were not aware of the text of the amendment and to that extent we have been caught somewhat on the hop by the material that Senator Byrne has presented. The Opposition wants to give serious consideration to the amendment which has been moved by Senator Byrne. Honourable senators will be aware that the party machines work on these things. When members of my Party considered the Bill that the Minister had introduced we were of the opinion that it should not be opposed, but now that an amendment has been introduced by Senator Byrne we think that we should give further consideration to the measure.
– Do you want to play politics as the DLP is playing politics?
– I think at some time or other we all play some politics, and the longer we stay here the more politics we play.
– 1 just wanted the concession from you.
– The honourable senator will understand more as he becomes more mature in this chamber.
– Have you not spoken in this debate already?
– I am entitled to speak to the amendment. I am not out of order. The Opposition believes that the amendment deserves serious consideration before we decide to support it or oppose it. We will not be able to consider the matter for a few days.
– Have you a problem on your mind?
– No, we have no problems, but unlike Government supporters we have limited facilities for our leaders, not only to do the work that is required of them in this place but also to do the work that is required of them throughout the length and breadth of this Commonwealth. Our leaders are not always available for us to consult them. As a matter of fact, tonight I had a little difficulty in finding one of the 4 leaders to get some advice. We have a regular caucus meeting every Wednesday. There is no urgency about the legislation that is presently before us. Whatever happens to the legislation tonight or next Wednesday night, the Bill will not come into operation before 1st January 1971 and 1 can see no particular reason why it should be rushed through at this stage.
– But is not the DLP amendment in accord with what you said in your speech in the second reading debate?
– No, it is not, and I thought the honourable senator would have given me more credit than that. When I spoke in the debate on the second reading I said that the charges were overweighted against the domestic airlines. I do not want to argue the merits or demerits of the amendment proposed by Senator Byrne.
– Why not?
– Because my Party has not considered it.
– A spokesman for the Government said that he could neither support nor oppose it.
-I thought honourable senators gave their own views in this chamber.
– Honourable senators opposite may have their own views, but 1 notice that they slick very closely to the views of their Parties when a vote is taken. J do not want to argue with the honourable senator on this aspect at the moment. Honourable senators opposite claim to have a philosophical and objective policy, but at the same time, they claim the right to come into this chamber with a free mind not to support at any given time those philosophies and objectives. This is the difference between the Parties which honourable senators opposite represent and my Party. I come in here to support the philosophies and objectives of the Australian Labor Party. Mr Acting Deputy President,I ask leave to continue my remarks.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Laucke) -Is leave granted?
– I shall remember that I have been refused leave. Therefore, I move:
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - The question is ‘That the debate be now adjourned’.
– The Government opposes the adjournment of the debate.
– Mr Acting Deputy President-
– I thought that Senator Cant said that his Leader was not here to discuss this matter.
-I think Senator Cant said, in reply to an interjection by Senator Webster, that he had found difficulty in communicating with any of his Leaders and for very good reasons.
– What is this discussion? The motion is ‘That the debate be now adjourned’.
-One of the reasons why Senator Cant indicated that–
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Senator Murphy, do you wish to make a statement or to speak to the motion?
– I wish to speak to the motion, Mr Acting Deputy President. Senator Cant has moved that the debate be now adjourned for the reason that the Senate has before it a very important piece of legislation which will affect all sections in the community. The burdon of meeting the increased charges may fall upon everyone in the community. An amendment has been proposed which has not received the consideration of the Australian Labor Party to which it is entitled.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Acting Deputy President. The motion is ‘That the debate be now adjourned’. As I understand the situation, the Leader of the Opposition has not sought leave to make a statement but is asserting a right to speak to the motion - a right which, in my submission, subject to your ruling, he does not have.
– When the Minister for Civil Aviation spoke to the motion that the debate be adjourned Senator Greenwood did not rise to prevent him doing so. I do not know whether Senator Greenwood would be prepared to indicatethe Standing Orders under which he has risen on a point of order.
– Standing order 431.
– I do not know the terms of the Standing Orders at this time but he sat in his place while the Minister for Civil Aviation spoke, however shortly, in the debate. Now he takes the attitude that I should not speak in the debate.
– Senator Murphy has not had the advantage of being present during the whole of the debate- The only speaking I have done during the debate was when I made my second reading speech on the Bill.
– I clearly heard the Minister for Civil Aviation speak. He may have overlooked the fact that after Senator Cant moved ‘That the debate be now adjourned’ he spoke, however briefly.
– He made a remark.
– The Minister stood in his place and spoke to the motion.
– Mr Acting Deputy President, will you rule on the point of order?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Laucke) - Yes. I shall. J point out to Senator Murphy that Senator Cant asked leave originally to continue his remarks. Leave was not granted to him. Senator Cant then sought, lo have the debate adjourned by moving That the debate be now adjourned’. This was opposed by the Minister for Civil Aviation. The motion which was put by Senator Cant at that time was not in order.
– Mr Acting Deputy President, may 1 say that surely there must be some reason and justice in this matter. If the Minister is allowed without objection to speak to the motion which was moved by Senator Cant-
– ls the Leader of the Opposition speaking to the point of order?
– Yes. If the Minister is allowed to speak without any objection being raised surely in ail fairness and justice I should not be prevented from speaking. The Minister opposed the motion. Why should I not be permitted to speak in favour of it? If it is necessary lo do so I will ask leave to speak on the matter but I would have thought that as a matter of fairness and justice I would be entitled to speak lo it as the Minister was allowed to speak to the motion without asking for leave.
– I rise to speak to the point of order. I hope that in doing so I am not in any way drawing lines around any Future remarks by mc. lt seems to me to be a little ridiculous lo say that when I said ‘no’ to Senator Cant’s request to adjourn the debate I was making a speech, particularly in view of the fact that we have listened to Senator Murphy for quite a long while.
– May I speak to the point, of order which was raised by Senator Greenwood, Mr Acting Deputy President? As I understand it, .Senator Greenwood raised a point of order under standing order 431. Standing order 431 states in quite definite terms that one of the motions which is not open to debate is the motion ‘That the debate be now adjourned’. Senator Cant having moved this motion. J submit that you are in duty bound to put the motion forthwith. Sir. Whether the Minister for Civil Aviation made an error in rising to indicate the Government’s point of view does not matter at this point of time. The point is, Sit, that I think you are bound by standing order 431 to put Senator Cant’s motion forthwith. I ask you to rule accordingly.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Laucke) - I rule that the motion should be now put.
– I ask for leave lo speak briefly to the motion, the Minister for Civil Aviation having been allowed to speak to it.
– 1 rise on a point of order, Mr Acting Deputy President. Standing order 431 stales that the motion ‘That the question bc now put’ shall be moved without argument or opinion being offered. Therefore. I believe that the Senate would bc in breach of the Standing Orders if it were to give Senator Murphy permission lo make a statement.
– Mr Acting Deputy President, there seems to be some confusion as to who is or is not entitled to speak. The courtesies of this chamber must be observed. If the Leader of the Opposition seeks leave to make a statement, 1 think it is only fair and courteous that he should be granted such leave.
– Do I have leave to make a statement, Mr Acting Deputy President?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- ls leave granted?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The Senate is debating a very important Bill. I would suggest as a matter of common sense that the Australian Labor Party should be given an opportunity to consider the proposal which has been put forward by the Australian Democratic Labor Party. We have not had a chance to consider the proposal yet. We want to consider it at our next Party meeting.
– Why? Does the honourable senator have to get a direction from the Executive outside the Party?
– The honourable senator knows better than that. We would like to consider the matter in the ordinary course of events. It is only reasonable that this should be done. Everybody should have a chance to consider matters which are important.I ask the Senate to support the motion moved by Senator Cant.
That the debate be now adjourned.
The Senate divided. (The Deputy President - Senator Bull)
Majority . . . . 2
Question so resolved in the negative.
– This is a curious way for the debate on an important Bill to proceed. It should be understood that these charges imposed by the Bill do not come into operation until 1st January 1971. So there is no urgency about this matter at all. The Government has introduced a Bill imposing charges which are objected to by some parties and which will certainly have an important effect on airline services, both domestic and international. Serious doubts have been expressed as to whether this kind of charge is beneficial to the community. In any event the Australian Democratic Labor Party has moved an amendment. While not opposing the Rill it has brought forward an amendment which one should assume has been brought forward genuinely to achieve an objective which is to redress the situation where the charges for the domestic airlines are in excess of those for the international airlines for the use of Commonwealth aerodromes and facilities. One the face of itthat is a very important point and the amendment as it is should be considered.
We in the Australian Labor Party have dealt with the Bill in globo. But this evening the DLP moved an amendment without notice. AgainI am not complaining about that, but they brought it in and it deserves consideration. A member of my Party, Senator Cant, moved that this Bill should be deferred as it was not urgent because the charges do not come into effect until 1st January 1971 and it was entitled to be considered in the light of the amendment which was moved on behalf of the Democratic Labor Party. We thought that no less consideration than that should be given to an amendment which would perhaps affect very much the comparative incidence of these charges on the domestic and foreign airlines. We as a party have not had the opportunity of considering this amendment and everyone knows (hat that is the way we operate.
– You have had as much opportunity as anyone else.
– Pesumably members of the Democratic Labor Parly thought this matter out, formulated the amendment and considered it.
– There are only 4 of us.
– That is all right. -Whether you are 4 or more you still act as a party. We hope that you will have an even easier opportunity of considering matters after the next election. We hope that your numbers will be reduced even further. However, whatever the size of your party, you are entitled to consider matters in the same way as the Government parties and the Australian Labor Party. We of the Australian Labor Party have been deprived of considering the matter as a party. The Opposition has been deprived, through the combination of votes of the Government parties and the Democratic Labor Party, of the opportunity of fully considering this amendment and arriving at a decision which might have assisted in carrying out what is behind the approach of the Democratic Labor Party. This amendment has to be dealt with without the full consultation of my colleagues. There may have been some point behind the amendment but obviously it is defective and cannot deal with the point raised. Assuming for the moment that the point raised by the Democratic Labor Party is correct, and wc have not had full opportunity to consider it. the amendment is not designed to achieve that result because it states: but the Senate is of the opinion that the charges imposed on domestic and international airlines for the use of Commonwealth aerodromes and facilities should bc at an identical rate for all aircraft of the same type.
Obviously the amendment is open to the objection that it does not even say that the domestic charge should be reduced lo equal the international charge. The Government could say. ‘All right, we will deal with this by raising the international charge to equal the domestic’
– That is all right. What is wrong with that?
– Senator Gair, on behalf of his Party, says: ‘That is all right. There is nothing wrong with that.’ It means then that you would do nothing for the domestic airlines in Australia and those in country areas or elsewhere which might be affected by the charges and perhaps are seeking some relief through not being charged more than the charge imposed on the international airlines.
– In other words you want the domestic services jeopardised.
– Mr Acting Deputy President, it is obvious that, on the premise put forward that the domestic airlines ought not be penalised, on the face of it and without the full consideration to which we are entitled, the amendment should have suggested at the very least that the charges on the domestic airlines should be no more than those already imposed on the international airlines. That is only commonsense. It shows that the amendment is hopelessly defective. We are forced to vote on it right now without having the opportunity of considering it and perhaps of arriving at some reasonable proposition which might have met the point raised and might have achieved a desirable result all round. It seems to me unreasonable for those who propounded the amendment to oppose giving us an opportunity to consider it. This leaves us with no course but to oppose the amendment and that is what we will do.
– I regret the hairsplitting attitude adopted by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy). I regret his suggestion that there may be something behind the amendment moved by the Democratic Labor Party which his Party would need considerable time to look into. The wording of the amendment is perfectly clear, lt seeks equality. I am surprised that the Australian Labor Party should need considerable time lo examine it. I am also surprised at the attempts to suggest that this or that particular word is wrong and therefore the Australian Labor Party cannot support the amendment.
I am sorry to have to say that in the past few weeks I have noticed that whenever we of the Democratic Labor Party move an amendment which from the point of view of a considerable number of members of the Australian Labor Party is a good one, it happens that they tell us that while they think there may be some good in it they find that there is some little point which prevents them from voting for it. If my Party thinks that the Australian Labor Party has put forward something that is good and worthwhile we vote for it. I am sorry that in the case of the members of the Australian Labor Party it appears to me that one of the objections, from their point of view, to this amendment is not its wording but the fact that it was moved by the Democratic Labor Party. If this is the attitude of the Australian Labor Party then it is welcome to it. As far as my Party is concerned, we will vote according to the merits on measures that come before the Senate.
Let us look at what we arc asked to do. It was suggested that there should be an adjournment. If the Australian Labor Party had said that it wanted this debate adjourned until tomorrow then the position would have been different so far as we are concerned. But we have been told that it requires an adjournment until next week when its caucus will meet. We have been told that it is impossible for the machinery of the Australian Labor Party to move in a period of less than 1 week.
– We did not say that. We said that there was no urgency for this Bill and that is so.
– The only implication I could get from the 2 members of your Party who spoke was that they wanted an adjournment so that their Party could consider this matter next Wednesday when it meets. In the 1.1 years that I have been in this Senate I have seen the machinery of the Australian Labor Party operate. I have never known it to have any difficulty in operating quick and lively when it wanted to. I have not the slightest doubt that if there was a sincere intention to have a decision on this matter tomorrow, the Australian Labor Party would have moved for an adjournment until tomorrow and that my Party would have considered that move favourably. But when the spokesmen for the Australian Labor Party say that they want to delay this matter until next Wednesday and that they are not sure what they are going to do, then I do not think there is any other action that we could take. Any allegation of unfairness or anything of the sort is entirely unjustified.
As for the suggestion that this amendment was circulated at a late date, I point out that when the Australian Labor Party proposes amendments we normally get them only when they are being moved by the particular senator in this chamber. There was a time in this chamber when we received a reasonable amount of notice about amendments to be moved but these days there is no notice. I cannot understand people complaining about procedure which they themselves adopt.
If the Australian Labor Party does not feel inclined to vote for our amendment then that is its business. Its members say that they want the matter deferred until next Wednesday when their caucus meets and that they are not sure what they are going to do. I strongly object to the suggestion that we are unfair if we come to the conclusion that we in the Senate should not accept that sort of procedure. I repeat what I said before: lt appears to me that the trouble in respect of this amendment, as in respect of others which we have moved in the last few weeks and in regard to which members of the Australian Labor Party have objected to the wording or said that some little thing has been wrong with the wording, is that they do not vote on issues on their merits: they vote on them according to whether the Democratic Labor Party has moved the amendment or someone else has moved it.
– I have listened with some interest to Senator. McManus. I have read this amendment. What does the wording actually convey? lt uses the words: ‘Bui the Senate is of the opinion. . . .’ That sound nice. I have been ‘of the opinion’ on many matters at many times. I just want to know-
– I do noi want to be hard on Senator Gair. I do not mind interjections if they are in keeping, but if they are not in keeping they become a little distracting. What does this wording actually mean? Does it mean that the charges that are to be made are to be those for international aircraft; or are they to be those for domestic aircraft? I believe that that point alone needs some elucidation because the Schedule to the Bill shows that there are 2 charges. One would want to know exactly what rates are to be charged.
The amendment refers to ‘an identical rate for all aircraft’. Could we be told exactly what rate is to be charged? Whether the time that was asked for is long or not is a matter of degree. The fact is that the wording of the amendment requires some elucidation. Even Senator McManus, when he was on his feet, did not say which rate should be charged. All he said was, as the amendment says - of course he supports the amendment because it was moved by a member of his Party - that there should be an identical rate.
– An identical rate.
– I point out to the Leader of the Democratic Labor Party that there are 2 rates. Which is it to be?
– We said that there should be a uniform rate.
– I point out to Senator Gair, with great respect, that at the moment there are 2 rates. One is for international aircraft that use our facilities, and the other is for infernal aircraft that use those facilities. I say to members of the DLP: Let us know whether the ‘identical rate* referred to in the amendment means the higher rate or the lower rate.
– They would not know. They would never think about that.
– r am not saying that they would not know. All I am asking them lo do is to tell us which one it is.
– Which one is it?
– I do not know. I do not think anyone would know from the wording of the amendment as submitted.
– Why not defeat the amendment if you do not understand it?
– When the time comes 1 will do what the honourable senator will do. I will vote the way my Party decides.
– You do not know how to vote.
– I will do no more tonight than Senator Gair did for 25 years. All I want to know is why it suddenly became so wrong to do that. As far as Senator Withers is concerned-
– 1 will not be careful. I have no need to be.
– You ought to be.
– What have I to be careful of? All I am saying is that honourable senators opposite will do exactly as I will do. What their Party decides in the Party room, they will do.
– Yes, you will.
– When have you ever voted against your Party?
– I do not think I have ever done that.
– No, but 1 have.
– On things that did not matter.
– You insist on having the numbers.
– I like them. In the past 1 have had the great pleasure of having them, often wilh Senator Gair’s help.
– No. I was always opposed to you. I always reckoned that you were a racketeer.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - Order! There are too many interjections.
– All I want to say-
– I was always opposed to you. 1 reckoned that you were a racketeer.
– Mr Deputy President, I take strong exception to the remark made by the Leader of the Democratic Labor Party and I ask that it bc withdrawn.
– - What are the words that you are requesting be withdrawn?
– The word racketeer’.
– Mr Deputy President, if my remark has offended my old friend, Senator Kennelly, although I was only flattering him and building him up I will withdraw it if he wants me to. But the fact remains that I was only building him up and at no stage of my political career did I ever think that he was as strong as 1 alleged he was.
– That will sound pretty garbled over the air.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - Order! There are loo many interjections from both sides of the chamber.
– All I am asking is whether it is possible, before a vole is taken on this amendment, to have a definition of some of the wording in it. I am concerned about the words ‘identical rates’. As everyone knows, there are 2 rates - one for international aircraft and the other for domestic aircraft.
– You realise that that can be done at the Committee stage, do you not?
– We will have to vote on this amendment before we reach the Committee stage. Whilst it may be true, as Senator McManus states, that he and his colleagues will be able to tell us at a later stage what the meaning of the words is, that will be after we have voted. Let them tell us before we have to vote.
– You establish the principle and then you set the rates.
– All I want to know is: What principle are we to establish.
– The principle of equal rates.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - Order! Senator Kennelly, will you direct your remarks to the Chair instead of to the interjectors?
-I do not mind. I like to be helped.
– You need a lot of help.
– Almost as much as you need. I do not think the Senate has been informed in any way by Senator McManus’s interjection that we will be told exactly what the meaning of the amendment is after we have voted on it. To me that does not seem to be a practical suggestion. If 1 cannot get the information I seek before I vote on the proposed amendment, I will vote against it. Let us have the information before we must vote so that: senators can consider whether they will vote for the amendment.
– Vote according to your conscience.
– I will. Politically the honourable senator’s conscience must be a little wavery at times considering the history that one could go into. It could waver a little, could it not? 1 seem to be able quite easily to attract a lot of help. I do not mind it.
– You need it.
– I need it, and I am human enough to admit it. We need not keep on talking unless we can get some word from the senators of the Party who are responsible for the proposal. Unless advice is forthcoming from them before the vote is taken, I will vote against the proposed amendment.
– I wish to raise a matter that concerns me in connection with this legislation.
– Is it a short contribution?
– Whatever contribution I make, I will not need instructions from the Democratic Labor Party. A matter which has been bugging me for a long time is the general performance of the airlines within Australia, and that is the point to which I wish to direct my remarks tonight. I am also concerned that the facilities available in some outlying centres off the main trunk routes of the domestic airlines have not kept pace with the modern concept of a growing nation and the increased importance of airline services in this country. I have alluded to this matter over a considerable period. I have sought from the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) assurances as to the attitude of the Government to the upgrading of airports which are off the main trunk air routes, but which perform an essential service in those outlying communities.
During the period that I have been travelling backwards and forwards between Tasmania and Canberra, and to other parts of Australia where my parliamentary duties have taken me, I have seen, not an improvement in the performance of Australia’s domestic airlines, but a retrogression.
– Oh no.
– The honourable senator comes from Victoria.
-I come from Tasmania.
– We disown you. You now come from Victoria. We no longer own you as a Tasmanian. I know the situation, and I speak of it not only from my own experience.
– Do not engage in that silly business.
– Why do you not talk clearly so that people can understand you, instead of slurring your words like that. I just cannot understand what you are talking about.
– We are talking about Australia, not the States.
– Why do you not speak clearly so that we can understand you? I will return to the point I was trying to make when I was interrupted by Senator Webster, who once again has the support of the DLP in his comments. I am serious about this matter, in spite of what other senators may feel about it. lt is a matter of some seriousness and concern to my home State. I repeat that there has been a retrogression in the standard of air services to Tasmania.
– The services to Wynyard and Devonport on the north west coast of Tasmania.
– What aircraft are travelling there?
– We are reduced to an aircraft designed for a race of pygmies - the Fokker Friendship.
Senator Withers - That is racialism. 1 he DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - Order! The Senate will come to order. There is far too much interjecting from both sides of the chamber.
– Thank you, Mr Deputy President, lt is obvious that honourable senators opposite do not want us to make a sensible or worthwhile contribution to this debate, but wilh your help, Sir, I will persist. There has been retrogression in that area and it has caused a great deal of concern to many people in the part of Tasmania whence [ come. I reiterate that the service has declined. Once in that area we had the service of the 620 series Viscount aircraft. T thought it was very good. We then had the 800 series Viscount, again an aircraft with 4 motors and freedom of movement and comfort for passengers. It had a speed of about 400 miles an hour.
– You do nol know what you are talking about.
– The 800 series Viscount had a capability of 400 miles an hour and generally flew at about 360 miles an hour. I do know what 1 am talking about. The service is now provided by Fokker Friendship aircraft. As anybody could quite readily ascertain, that aircraft has a normal flying speed of about 300 miles an hour. There has been retrogression in terms of the speed of the aircraft used, and also in respect of the passenger space in the aircraft. I remind honourable senators that the Fokker Friendship is the only type of aircraft now serving the north-west coast of Tasmania. No other aircraft serves that area now that the Viscounts have been phased out.
The Fokker Friendship is a narrow aircraft and only a confined space is available, for passengers, lt is extremely difficult to sit in them in comfort. From time to time
I have complained.’ I have complained repeatedly to the airlines. The Minister and other honourable senators will know that I have raised this matter on a number of occasions. Since (he introduction of the F28 Fellowship aircraft, the jet version, I have repeatedly sought an indication that this rapidly growing part of Tasmania would be served by an aircraft of that type. I have been assured by people with some knowledge of the subject that the F28 can land at airports at which the Viscount aircraft were able to land.
The Minister in his last reply to me indicated that the Department of Civil Aviation did not know what plans were contemplated for the upgrading of airports on the north-west coast of Tasmania because it did not know of the needs of the 2 domestic airlines in respect of the availability and operation of future aircraft. That is the present, position. 1 say quite seriously without any equivocation whatever that the standard of the air services to that part of Tasmania in recent years has declined quite substantially, lt is a retrograde step in a rapidly developing part of Australia. The position is aggravated by the fact that Tasmania is an island Slate, separated from the test of Australia by Bass Strait. For that reason we are more dependent on the facilities provided by airlines than any other part of Australia. Recently we had tremendous difficulties and problems thrust upon us by increases in the tariffs of the shipping companies. Shortly we will be disadvantaged further by the application of higher air charges. This is having a detrimental effect on the development of that part of Tasmania in which I reside.
The emphasis seems to be upon expending many millions of dollars on the development of the main city airport terminals of Sydney, Melbourne and the other capitals, to the detriment of the development of airport facilities in the outlying areas of Australia, despite the fact that the Government claims to be concerned about decentralisation. This has become most apparent to me. It is remarkable that in Western Australia one of the airlines has equipped itself with F28 aircraft but there seems to be no encouragement by or persuasion on the part of the Government to require the domestic airlines, which receive such a tremendous amount of support and protection from the Government, to ensure that air services to outlying centres are brought into line with modern trends.
– Could the honourable senator make some reference to the Bill? ‘
– Does not Senator Webster understand the tenor of the debate? When I want his help. 1 will call on him. I think thai is fair enough. In my speech tonight I. am concerned particularly about the application of the charges on domestic airlines. The increase in air navigation charges each year seems to be right out of hand and to bear no relationship to the problems associated with the development of this country. The Senate ought to exercise that degree of wisdom which one has a right to expect of it and stand over the Bill until we have some assurance that the application of these charges is properly based. For instance, as yet there has been no acknowledgment of the fact that there is no requirement upon the Government each year to finance the expenditure outlay on the further development of aerodromes. There are elements in the provision of aerodromes - elements concerning decentralisation, defence and a multitude of other matters - which bear upon the development of a country like Australia. To me, they do not seem to have been taken properly into account. I speak as one from the wilderness, as it were. I plead with the Government to get away from the concept that the only places in Australia are the main capital cities and to give some con sideration to the problems associated with the development of aerodromes and with the provision of facilities at those aerodromes. When the Government is imposing additional fees or increasing the air navigation charges, it should give some consideration to and have some regard for the outlying areas of the Commonwealth.
– 1 want to speak very briefly about the situation that has arisen in the debate. As I understood the position, the second reading debate on this Bill to authorise the levying of charges in respect of Commonwealth air navigation facilities and services was drawing to a close. The Australian Democratic Labor Patty had circulated an amendment to the motion for the second reading of the Bill. If carried, the amendment will have no effect on the legislation. If defeated, as it deserves to be in my opinion, nothing will be lost or won. The Australian Labor Party, having indicated in reasoned speeches its attitude to the Bill, wants to delay the passage of the Bill because it has not made up its mind collectively on whether it will vote for or against, the amendment to the motion for the second reading of the Bill. I say, with great respect to those who have tried to explain the awkward situation in which the Labor Party finds itself, that I honestly do not believe that any honourable senator opposite cannot make up his mind on whether this amendment should be supported or opposed. From the very reading of the amendment, I believe that any honourable senator should be able to make up his or her mind on whether he or she will support or oppose it. The amend men I to the motion for the second reading of the Bill reads: but the Senate is of the opinion that the charges imposed on domestic and international airlines fur the hsc of Commonwealth aerodromes and facilities should be at an identical rate for all aircraft of the same type.
If that amendment were carried it would have no effect on the airline companies or on the legislation. It could be of no possible help. It is an idea that is thrown into the ring by the Democratic Labor Party, an idea that I believe would be unworkable and unwise. I will oppose the suggestion that it be put to the Government. I trust that the majority of honourable senators will take that view. Surely the amendment is not of such importance that parties have to leave the Senate and wait until the normal meeting time to discuss whether they can vote on some rather extraordinary proposal, in my estimation, that the Government should introduce in the future - not in this legislation - in respect of air charges.
I cannot agree with what my colleague, Senator Devitt, said about the Australian airlines, f believe that they started in a remarkably efficient manner and when joined by the old company, Australian National Airlines, a great improvement came about. That improvement in both airlines and their subsidiaries throughout Australia has continued. We are a lucky country in respect of our civil airlines and in respect of the services provided by those who fly, maintain and operate them. It is wrong and unfair for an honourable senator to say that the standard of service has deteriorated. When I was elected 17 years ago, I would leave Canberra airport at. 7 a.m. on a Friday and was lucky if 1 reached Hobart by 4.50 p.m. Now I leave at 7.50 a.m. Friday and I am at Hobart airport at 9.50 a.m. The services to the north west coast of Tasmania are equally as efficient. Last Friday fortnight I left Canberra at 7.50 a.m. and was at Wynyard airport at 9.50 a.m. There is a difference in size but very little difference in speed of. the Fokker Friendship and the Viscount aircraft. Just as T model Fords are out of fashion, so are Viscount aircraft out of fashion in Australia today. Their replacement aircraft is the faster Fokker Friendship. Surely nobody can say that our airline services are diminishing in efficiency because of the introduction of these new modern type short haul passenger-cargo aircraft, f do not believe it is fair to make that criticism.
Before honourable senators criticise the Government for imposing increased charges and then criticise some airports in country centres, they should realise that to bring all airports in country areas up to the standard required to take the modern jet aircraft many millions of dollars will have to bc spent. Therefore all types of charges will have to be increased. So I believe the measure has the general support of the House. I believe the DLP amendment is such (hat any senator should be able to make up his mind either to support or oppose it, and I oppose it.
– J am stirred to take part in this debate by the remarks of Senator Marriott who. seemed to indicate that the services to Tasmania are suitable, efficient and effective as far as Tasmanians are concerned. However, Senator Devitt seemed to cast considerable doubt on this. I can speak with some knowledge of the conditions which exist in Queensland. I believe they necessitate an improvement in airline facilities and airline operations. Having listened to the debate tonight I am of the opinion that some further consideration ought to be given to the amendment moved by the Australian Democratic Labor Party. I for my part cannot see any reason why some time cannot be given for this consideration. 1’he DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Sir Magnus Cormack) - You are speaking to the amendment?
– I am speaking to the Bill and to the amendment. I do not doubt that I will make some general references to both. Before I do so I would like to mention the problems we face in Queensland which necessitate an overall improvement in airline services. In particular 1 want to refer to the airport of Gladstone, f had hoped that by this time the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) would have had a chance to inspect the Gladstone facilities and to come back with some report, some statement, which would give hope to the people of Gladstone that the airport might be improved. The conditions of this airport are such that on one occasion it was necessary for the passengers who were to he transported from Gladstone to go out on to the tarmac and physically move one of the aircraft into position for take-off. This did not happen 20 years ago; it happened some few months ago.
The facilities at Gladstone and many airports in Queensland, especially those further north and approaching Thursday Island, such as the airport at Weipa and the one on Horn Island, demand that something be done to improve the conditions. This is particularly so in the case of Gladstone because it is a town which is improving rapidly. Great industrial development is taking place and, if honourable senators will recall, some time ago wa passed legislation to assist in the establishment of a major power station at Gladstone. But Gladstone is also an important tourist airport, lt was lamentable for me to see almost 100 tourists standing out in the sun without any cover whatsoever waiting for transport to take them either to the city of Gladstone or across to the tourist islands.
– You would stand in the sun on the wharf at Townsville would you not, or at most ports throughout Australia?
– J would say the honourable senator’s interjection supports my argument that the facilities at airports throughout Australia are not as they should be. In Queensland in particular they fall far short of demand. Therefore it is with interest that 1 notice that the legislation provides for overseas aircraft to bc charged a lower rate for facilities than internal aircraft. I am of the opinion that we pay too much attention to, and spend far too much money on, facilities for overseas aircraft to the disadvantage of internal airlines. Anyone who has to suffer the inconvenience of the airport at Melbourne and the inconvenience of the Sydney airport will realise that the domestic airlines are suffering considerably. We had hoped that we would have had some indication by now when the new airport facilities would be built in Brisbane. In spite of the expenditure of much money on the Brisbane airport, it is already overcrowded. One merely has to spend a few hours there on a Sunday when a couple of international flights come into Brisbane to realise just how over-congested is the Brisbane airport.
– What is the niose problem like in Brisbane?
– The noise problem is causing some concern. However, it is intended that aircraft take off out across the Bay and in some way avoid the suburbs. It is an increasing problem but J believe that as a result of the investigations of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Aircraft Noise some improvements have been made to facilities in Brisbane and, 1 believe, in Sydney. However, the congested state of the Brisbane airport demands that the programme which has been laid down by the Department of Civil Aviation be expedited. Of course, it cannot be expedited unless money is provided, and no-one denies that the airlines should in some way provide some of the finance for this expansion. The overall programme for the development of the airports in Queensland, as I have suggested - 1 would like to emphasise this to the Minister - has fallen far behind schedule. had hoped that by now the Minister would have presented some sort of forward programme for the development of these airports in Queensland. It seems to me an ad hoc sort of arrangement that air navigation charges should be raised without at the same time presenting some future programme for development and some indication of how charges would be related to the improvements. However, this has not been done.
I would like to come back to the point that was made earlier by the Opposition thai because of the points brought forward by the various speakers tonight, and possibly because of the amendment moved by the DLP, some further time is required for consideration of the whole of this legislation. I do not want to bring to the mind of the Senate - I do not doubt we will have need to complain about it later - the fact that there is no need for any exorbitant or unnatural haste in the passing of the legislation, because I believe that we are going to sit for a period of almost 4 consecutive weeks.
– We do not want to be hasty about it then.
– No, there is no need for haste because we can carry through a considerable amount of legislation in the days that remain. I assure the Government that we do not require any extensive time to enable us to carry out a suitable campaign which will give us a sufficient addition to the number of senators on the Opposition side to gain the control of this House which the country needs so desperately. Then we will be able to take the initiative and bring forward legislation, or even obstruct legislation which comes from the other place, for the eventual betterment of conditions in this country.
– This has really helped us on the Air Navigation (Charges) Bill. I am very grateful to the honourable senator.
– 1 had not intended to contribute to the debate because I felt that by now the Opposition, or at least the Government - 1 always term it the Opposition because it is in opposition to us in this context - I shall use that word, if 1 may, which is often used by you, Mr Acting Deputy President - and now I find myself unable to complete the sentence.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Sir Magnus Cormack) - Many honourable senators have found themselves in that situation before you, so you may continue.
– But they have not been prepared to admit it and to apologise. Although Senator Rae has indicated that I have not contributed much to this debate, perhaps f have gained sufficient time to enable us to consider this problem further so that we will not have to come to a hasty decision. I have had an indication from a fellow senator that he intends to speak in this debate and 1 would hate to deprive him of the opportunity to do so.
– I wish to make a very brief contribution to this debate. The intention of the Bill is ;o increase the revenue of the Department of Civil Aviation for the general purpose of enabling it to discharge its duties towards the aircraft industry. Irrespective of what one may feel about the legislation before the Senate, I think we should give due acknowledgment to the excellent work that is done by the Department. These remarks are not intended to be in praise of the Government. We know that there are some very capable and responsible officers within the Department of Civil Aviation who in so many ways do an excellent job. I do not think that any criticism or remarks which have been made tonight by members of the Opposition have been intended as criticism of the excellent standards set by the technical staff.
– You could have fooled me, senator.
– 1 am rather sun prised that honourable senators opposite should interject while I am endeavouring to pay due homage to officers of the Department of Civil Aviation.
– They are not in the least concerned.
– As Senator Toohey has pointed out, Government supporters do not appear to be the least concerned. One of the most important things and one of the greatest achievements of the Department has been its emphasis on safety factors. There are few airline systems in the world which have a record of air safety comparable to that in Australia. I am sure that any fair-minded person would acknowledge that.
– I rise to order Mr Acting Deputy President, I draw your attention to standing order 421 which reads:
The President or the Chairman of Committees may call the attention of dic Senate or the Committee, as the case may be, to continued irrelevance or tedious repetition, and may direct a Senator to discontinue his speech:
Provided that such Senator shall have the right to require that the Question whether he be further heard be put, and thereupon such Question shall be put without Debate. f point out in support of my point of order that for the last 2 hours we have heard from the Australian Labor Party a continued spate of irrelevance and repetition designed simply to give honourable senators opposite time to put an amendment before their caucus. It has been apparent from the statements which were made earlier tonight that this has been their objective. What we have heard since,I suggest, bears that out entirely. What has been said by the last 3 or 4 speakers on the Opposition side has been designed to play out time. There are rules of the Senate which are designed to prevent that sort of thing happening. I suggest, Mr Acting Deputy President, that your attention be directed to this standing order which gives you power to stop continued irrelevance or tedious repetition, lt has been futile- to have to sit here and listen to the things which members of the Australian Labor Party have been saying, things which are’ not germane to the matter before the Senate but which are designed simply to give them time. I think it is high time that this was made known.
– Speaking to the pointof order, may I say thai Senator
Greenwood has indulged in his usual vituperation against the Opposition or anyone who differs from him in opinion. Senator Wriedt who is engaged in the debate is entitled to put his view. So far is the honourable senator wrong in making these suggestions which. I suppose, emanate somewhere from the recesses of his mind from where also come the other suggestions about plots and conspiracies to overthrow the Government, and so on, that we have heard so often-
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Sir Magnus Cormack) - 1 suggest that the honourable senator’s remarks are becoming a little wide of the point of order.
– So far is he wrong that I hope that we will have the opportunity tonight to get to a vote on the amendment. 1 see no reason why we should not have a vote on the amendment. If this should necessitate our sitting for a short time past 1 1 p.m. - not that I am anxious that this should happen - in order to get a vote, I think we could achieve that. I suggest to the Government that if we agree upon that we can vote upon the amendment and then defer the matter. I think that Senator Greenwood’s expressions were nol called for. This is an important matter and honourable senators are entitled to express their views. Each one of us is entitled to speak and I think it is not helpful to the deliberations of the Senate for any honourable senator, let alone a whole section of senators, to be subjected to the kind of unwarranted attack that has been made in his usual fashion by Senator Greenwood.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - I have listened to the argument in relation to the point of order and 1 do not uphold the point of order. I call Senator Wriedt.
– Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President. The point I was coming to was not one of irrelevance, as Senator Greenwood will find out. r was emphasising the record of the Department of Civil Aviation in safety matters. My reason for doing this was to raise a matter in respect of which I feel the Department is falling down on its job very badly. I raised this with the Minister and his predecessor last year. It concerns specifically the position that air hostesses find themselves in during flight. An unreasonable situation has developed on the Australian airlines system since the introduction of jets and the Department has done nothing about it. Air hostesses are expected during high density flights to serve drinks and meals in the hour’s flight between capital cities. We all fly a lot and every time we fly we see that invariably these girls are not strapped in, as they are supposed to be, when the relevant sign is illuminated. I put this matter to the Minister 12 months ago and said that this was a breach of the safety regulations and that they ought to be made to occupy a seat as everybody else in the aircraft is, yet nothing has been done about it.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Sir Magnus Cormack) - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
Th:il (he Senate tlo now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
– lt is quite apparent that the Department of Civil Aviation regards safety factors as being of very great importance, as it should. However, one repeatedly sees on these flights hostesses, who should be strapped in like everybody else, racing around the aircraft collecting bottles of drink, trays of food and so on. The aircraft is almost on the ground before they have finished their task and have sat down and strapped themselves in like everybody else. As I understand it, if a hostess were to be injured at this stage of the flight because of severe turbulence she would have no claim to workers’ compensation. I. am subject to correction on this point. The Department ought to recognise the fact that hostesses are just as entitled to protection against injury as any passenger or a crew member. I have raised a serious mutter. Every person who flies in an aircraft on such a flight ought to give serious consideration to whether it is worthwhile insisting on having a whisky or a meal. Some day one of these girls will be injured. Hostesses are entitled to the same protection as everybody else. I can imagine what would happen if it was discovered that members of Parliament were running around in Government cars without the protection which third party insurance policies afford them, “( his has been the situation ever since the introduction of jet aircraft on these flights.
Almost 12 months ago I brought this matter to the attention of the Minister for Civil Aviation - I think it was the present Minister’s predecessor - but 1 received au unsatisfactory answer. I believe the situation is still unsatisfactory. The Department of Civil Aviation ought to look at the position in regard to these high density flights. Only recently the airline operators decided that passengers would not be provided with a drink or a meal on the Sydney to Canberra run because it was impossible for the hostesses to do the work in the time available. The same situation applies in regard to high density flights between Sydney and Melbourne. The Department ought to make a decision now before someone is injured. Undoubtedly if someone is injured regret will be expressed by the Department. 1 say in complete sincerity that I am nol discussing this matter for the sake of talking, as Senator Gerenwood would appear to think. 1 raised this matter for the simple reason that I believe that these girls, as employees of the airlines, ought to be offered exactly the same rights as any other employees.
That the words proposed to be added (Senator Byrne’s amendment) be added.
The Senate divided. (The Deputy President - Senator Bull)
- Mr Deputy President, is it competent for an honourable senator who has shares in an airline, whether it be a domestic or international airline, to vote on this motion unless he declares his holding?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - I do not have any information as to whether any honourable senator has any interests in an airline.
– Would it be possible to get this information as I would hate to see any honourable senator do anything wrong unwittingly?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second lime, and committed pro forma; progress reported. .
Motion (by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) proposed:
That the Mouse do now adjourn.
– I regret the lateness of the hour at which I rise but I wish to raise a matter which 1 consider to be of very great importance to a large number of Australians and that is the question of the proposed review by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board of its Australian content requirements. The Control Board report was tendered to the Parliament only yesterday despite the fact that it is dated 4th August. This morning’s newspapers, without mentioning that the report was dated 4th August carried statements that a review of Australian content in television programmes would take longer than expected, lt was slated in the newspaper reports that the Control Board was making that statement as of yesterday. As a result of these articles 1 have had a large number of phone calls and a large number of telegrams from a great section of the Australian community which is very interested in this subject asking me to raise the matter on their behalf in Parliament this evening. I have read with interest the reports in this morning’s newspapers. Today I had the opportunity to read a large part of the Control Board’s report concerning this matter. In paragraph 460 of the report it is stated that the Board is again engaged in a review of Australian content requirements, that it is not easy to determine the best policy to be adopted immediately and that it is apparent that this review will take longer than the Board had earlier expected, but nonetheless it will be carried out as quickly as possible having regard to the Board’s very heavy programme of inquiries into various other fields. I rather glean from this phrase ‘having regard to the Board’s very heavy programme of inquiries in various fields’ that the Board considers there were much more important matters from its point of view than the particular matter on which am speaking at this time such as, perhaps, the conducting of an inquiry into frequency modulation or to whom a licence should be issued so far as a radio station at Nowra is concerned. I know that since the report was drawn up - I emphasise that it is dated 4th August - the Board has been engaged in inquiring into applications for a licence for a radio station at Gosford.
I fear from paragraphs 460 and 461 of the Board’s report that despite the breaches by certain stations of an Act of Parliament, namely the Broadcasting and Television Act, and the standards laid down by the Control Board under that Act, that the Board regards this matter as being of secondary consideration. In its report the Board says that the review will be carried out as quickly as possible. Frankly, because of the great importance of this matter I think that the review should have been completed by now or a pronounce ment should have been made on the matter because it was on 9th June - over 4 months ago - that the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) who in this chamber represents the PostmasterGeneral (Mr Hulme) told me in reply to a question which I asked that the Board would be making this review shortly. On behalf of those who are vitally affected because of lack of job opportunities in the industry I urge the Board to drop everything else and give this matter top priority.
– What date was that?
– lt was on 9th June that 1 was told by the Minister that the Board would be making its review shortly, lt is now towards the middle of October and no pronouncement has yet been made. Indeed, 1 wonder whether the review has as yet been undertaken. But even in the Board’s own statement in its report there is certainly cause for alarm. We all know there is an obligation on Australian commercial television stations to produce 50 per cent of their programme with Australian content. That amount of overall Australian content, be it drama, variety, documentary, sports, talks, quiz sessions or the lot, has not been altered for some 5 years except that in 1967 an obligation was imposed on television stations to televise an aggregate of at least 2 hours a month in peak viewing time of Australian dramatic production, be it new material or repeated programmes. Also I think a requirement was brought in last year that stations should show in peak viewing lime 18 hours of Australian production per month. A monthly period was taken over a 28-day calendar period. Again, that Australian production could be dramatic, variety, documentary, talks, sports or quiz programmes.
However, on the loose or all-embracing definition that has been given to Australian productions the commercial stations appear to have been able to superimpose the philosophy of commercial profitability on public responsibility. I do not suppose that one can blame the stations for that sort of philosophy. Let us face it: They are in business to make a profit. However the Australian Broadcasting Control Board bears statutory responsibilities and it should be rigidly enforcing all the standards that it has imposed on the commercial stations in the public interest. I refer the Senate to page 105 of the Board’s report for the year ended 30th June. On that page there is a table, lt will be seen that one station. Channel TEN in Sydney-
– Is the general manager of that station an American?
– Yes, I understand he is an American.
– Perhaps that is why he buys American programmes.
– I would not be prepared to say that but certainly his station has not been able to comply with the minimum requirement of 2 hours of Australian drama per month.
– Per month?
– Yes, 2 hours per month. Its total was 1 hour 45 minutes.
– Does that station run .C’i-:- -.-‘ the kangaroo?
– I am not prepared to say what programmes it shows but certainly it is in breach of the minimum standard laid down by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. In that period of I hour and 45 minutes per month, 1 again emphasise, the programmes could well be repeated, not new material, because they qualified as Australian production material. Despite the Board’s pronouncement that it ‘regards the production and presentation of Australian drama as particularly important’ - 1 am reading from paragraph 458 of the Board’s report - that commercial metropolitan station has not been able to comply with the requirement of 2 hours per month Australian drama. Paragraph 463 of the Board’s report slates:
The table shows that the majority of stations complied satisfactorily with the Board’s requirements, many exceeding the minima by substantial amounts. Eight stations, namely, GTV. TVQ, ADS, SAS, RVN, FNQ, BTQ and WBQ, failed to comply with the requirement to televise 50 per cent of Australian material.
Then the Board states that 3 of those stations were operating under financial difficulties and others were operating under some technical difficulties. But if stations cannot meet their statutory obligations and the standards imposed upon them by the
Control Board, lel alone their original undertakings given to the Board when they applied for their licences, then frankly their licences should be withdrawn or, if any dispensation at all is given to any of them a ministerial statement should be made in this Parliament setting out to the Parliament the reasons why the dispensation has been given so that the matter can be fully debated here. Speaking of undertakings given by commercial stations at the time they applied for their licences, I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard details provided to me in this regard by the Parliamentary Legislative Research Service.
– Is leave granted?
– If Senator Greenwood objects to this sort of material being incorporated in Hansard then, in the public interest, I intend to read it.
– How many pages are there?
– I do not care now if 1 am here, until 1 o’clock. 1 was going to be quite reasonable about this but now I intend to speak for as long as I have to in order to put the record straight. The details provided to me by the Parliamentary Legislative Research Service on Australian content undertakings are as follows:
On 24th October 1963 Senator Wade, on behalf of the Postmaster-General, in answer to a question by Senator Cohen (Question No. 110) provided the following information:
– What date was that?
– This was on 24th October 1963. It states:
– I think Senator Greenwood missed that last sentence. Would you read it to him again?
– No. He can read it tomorrow in Hansard. The document states:
He commented, miller. 1 that Austarama Television Ply Ltd ATV Channel O in Melbourne, undertook to have 58 per cent Australian content in its programmes in its first year of operation. According to ‘.. Report made by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to the Postmaster-General in 1963 this figure represented 24-J hours of the total programme lime in the first year, increasing gradually in the second and third years. Weekly hours of transmission were to 42, 46 and 63 in each year respectively.
In that Report United Telecasters (TEN Sydney) was said to have proposed that the weekly hours of transmission for the first year would be 534, rising lo 67J hours in the second year and 79J hours in the third year.
The Report continues: -
The programme schedule for the third year of operation indicated that 37.5 per cent of programme time would be occupied by staion-originated “live” material. With respect to the selection of programmes to be presented prior 10 8.30 p.m., it was stated that regard would be had to their influence on young viewers, the emphasis being on “worthwhile values rather than sensational appeal”. The applicant indicated that of the 37.5 per cent station-originated material, 8 per cent of total programme time would relate to news, 8 per cent lo family programmes, 6.5 per cent to light entertainment, 4.5 per cent to informational programmes, 4 per cent to sport, and 2.6 per cent to current affairs, with drama, arts and religion making up the remaining 3.9 per cent.’
Thus it does not appear that any percentage of Australian content was proposed in the application of United Telecasters for their licence. A quick search of the transcript of the proceedings in the ‘Applications for a T.V. Licence’ Sydney 1962 revealed no statistic on this topic, so far as United Telecasters were concerned, but merely a promise to attempt to give its programmes ‘an essentially Australian characteristic’ should its application be successful (Transcript p. 635).
That is all 1 wish to have included in Hansard. I. have read it from the document produced for me by the Legislative Research Service of the Library.
– lt is fair to say that all those declarations were in sworn evidence given by those who sought a television licence, is it not?
– I assume that they were all in sworn evidence. I suppose that they were subject to scrutiny by the Board and cross-examination by opposing applicants. Nonetheless, they are the matters that the applicants asserted they would carry out when they applied for their licence. Having been given their licence, not only do they appear to be ignoring the undertakings they gave in evidence before the Board but they now appear, in some instances ut least, to be ignoring statutory obligations and standards imposed upon them by the Board.
– But they arc only a fraction away from the 50 per cent at the moment.
– Even if they are only a fraction away fromhe 550 per cent, they are under it: and if a metropolitan station has been operating for 5 or 6 years there is no excuse whatever for it operating at less than the minimum standards imposed by the Board. Let me be quite frank. I commend certain of the stations that are setting out with high Australian content programmes. My barb is directed at the Board for not rigidly imposing its standards and at the stations for not seeing that the minimum is maintained. 1 urge honourable senators to compare those undertakings with the table lat is set out on page 105 of the annual report of the Control Board. With the concurrence of honourable senators, I incorporate that table in Hansard.
As far as radio is concerned, the Postmaster-General told the Federation of Commercial Broadcasters only this week that several commercial radio stations had fallen short of their statutory requirement - J emphasise that it is a statutory requirement; - to broadcast a mere 5 per cent of Australian composed music in their broadcasting total. He went on to tell the Federation that this was a legal requirement and that neither he nor the Board had any discretion in the matter. But, frankly, all the discretion in the world seems to have been and to be exercised in favour of the stations at the expense of those who earn their livelihood from informing, entertaining and educating the Australian co in m 1 1 n ity .
For too long have Australian artists, writers, producers and technicians and the
Australian public been denied the benefits of an indigenous Australian television industry. Australian performers and writers are being denied the opportunity to work in the profession of their choice in their own country. If we need any evidence of that, let us look at one or two other statements made by the Board in its annual report. Firstly, in paragraph 459 the Board states:
Some Australian-produced drama series are very popular on the evidence of audience measurement surveys, but during the past year several series appeared relatively briefly and, failing lo win sufficient support from viewers, were dropped from the schedules. The result has been a decline in the total amount of drama currently being produced, and although several new drama projects have been announced it is apparent that this section of an admittedly volatile industry is far from the position of stability necessary to ensure a steady improvement in both quality and quantity of production.
Surely, if the Board regards the production and presentation of Australian drama as being particularly important, as it states in paragraph 458, the statement 1 have just read is an indictment of its own administration and of the commercial stations as well. After all, commercial television has operated in Australia for 12 or 13 years now. Certainly the time is long overdue when we should have had some sort of stability in this industry. Then, in paragraph 478 of its annual report the Control Board states:
By far the greatest proportion of programmes in family viewing time consisted of general entertainment from overseas. Although many of these programmes attract the young audience it is clear that in family viewing time there are unused opportunities for developing a wider range of Australian programmes of both an entertaining and informative character to interest children and adolescents.
I emphasise the next sentence:
The Australian culture, in its broadest sense, should rank much higher than it does in subject matter presented by television to developing young Australians. 1 suggest that that paragraph also is an indictment of the Board’s administration and of the stations because the Board’s statutory obligation is to ensure that Australians will be used as far as possible in the production and presentation of programmes and also to ensure that adequate and comprehensive programmes serving the best interests of the general public are presented by commercial stations.
I therefore suggest that immediate action has to be taken because, quite obviously, it will be some months before any new programme standards, once they have been announced, can be implemented. Programmes will have to be produced not only in quantity but, because we certainly do not want ‘quota quickies’ here, more particularly in quality. As a Canadian royal commission on publications said in 1960-61, the communications of a nation are as vital to its life as its defences. The annual report of the Canadian RadioTelevision Commission for 1969-70 contains this paragraph:
On April 17, 1969, one of the Commission’s major decisions on foreign ownership denied Famous Players Canadian Corporation, a controlled subsidiary of Paramount International Films Inc., the permission to transfer its broadcasting shareholdings into a new corportion (Tel.iron Communications Ltd) for two main reasons.
One was because the effective ownership in Teltron by Famous Players would have remained essentially the same as before. The other was because the application and presentations to the Commission in public hearings failed to demonstrate policies that would significantly contribute to ‘safeguard, enrich and strengthen the cultural, political, social and economic fabric of Canada’.
In May this year the Canadian RadioTelevision Commission established the following objective: That Canadian programmes must occupy at least 60 per cent of the broadcast time in Canadian television stations. It affrmed that the 40 per cent balance of programmes shall not all be imported from any one country. Television broadcasters in Canada may . import up to 30 per cent only from any one country; 10 per cent must come from other countries. lt went on to say that the television programme objective would he mandatory on the total Canadian broadcasting system as at 1st October 1972. I have mentioned that matter to indicate that even if the pronouncement were made by the Board tomorrow indicating an increase in Australian content, it would be sortie time before the stations and the production companies would be able to gear - up to provide the necessary programmes.
This matter is far too important to leave to the commercial licensees, as has been suggested in the submission circulated to members of this Parliament by the Federation of Australian Commercial Television Stations. Against those who have been and are campaigning for the right to work in their own country and the preservation of Australian characterisitics including the portrayal, especially to our younger generation, of our tradition and heritage, the Federation has used insulting and intemperate phrases. I use those terms deliberately. The Federation has used such phrases as ‘the television content lobby’, the organised seekers’, and so on. On behalf of the very loyal and decent Australians who certainly have the interests of this nation at heart, I lodge a very strong objection to the innuendo cast against them by the Federation. For many of these people it must have taken a great deal of courage to come out positively in support of this genuine Australian cause. Those of them with whom I have associated are much more concerned about the humble fellows in the industry - the technicians and the up and coming artists - rather than their own personal interests. They are very concerned about the future of this industry and what it means to Australia.
Despite all the surveys that have been made by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, as published in” ils annual reports year after year, and despite a recent well documented survey by the Board clearly showing that Australian viewers are now ready for high quality Australian programmes - and I emphasise the word ‘quality’ - according to the Federation of Australian Commercial Television Stations, only the commercial stations should decide what the Australian people are to have, or indeed, what the Australian people want. The Federation slates in paragraph 214 of its submission:
Commercial station licensees do nol consider there is justification al present for considering any basis lor progressive adjustment of Australian programming content over a 5-year period or lesser term.
Time does not permit mc lo deal in complete detail with the submission of the Federation. Suffice to say that whilst it contains some facts of quite a useful nature, in. many cases figmentary conclusions have been drawn from certain matters that have been much overstated or misinterpreted. Honourable senators will appreciate how Australian viewers are placed. Eventually the viewers pay for the cost of television, because the advertising rates and all advertising costs are passed on to them in the costs of thc commodity. With the concurrence of honourable senators 1 incorporate in Hansard paragraphs 132 and 133 of the Federation’s submission. 132. But the U.S.A. film sellers arc hard-headed business people who endeavour to extract the highest’ prices for their films, but it hardly savours of ‘dumping’ if those selling prices in each country do not match the cost of production. They vary according to population, the number of television sets and degree of competition between stations. For example, the maximum price range for halfhour productions listed in ‘Variety’ of 8lh April, 1970, included such variations as:
I recently led a deputation on this subject to the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen). the Postmaster-General, and the Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. I think it is fair to say that the deputation was well received. However, 1 do not want the Government or the Control Hoard to think that the matter can be pigeonholed for any period. Urgent action is needed. In the interests of this nation I appeal for immediate action by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. The Board has an enormous responsibility in this matter. I urge it and the Government to grasp the nettle and act for Australia, particularly the younger generation, in respect of commercial television in this country.
St iia tor Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) (11.47) - I wish to reply briefly to one or two points raised by Senator McClelland. He quite correctly said that paragraph 461 of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board’s report states that it is apparent that the review will take longer than the Board had earlier expected. 1 remind the Senate, as Senator McClelland did, that the report- is dated 4th August, so a considerable time has passed. The honourable senator rather: implied the question: ‘ls it being carried out?” I draw his attention to the line following that which he quoted, lt states: but ii is being carried out as quickly as possible . . .
So it is being carried out, and I confirm that point. Senator McClelland also quoted from paragraph 463, which refers to the television stations which bad failed to comply with the requirement for Australian material, in fairness f think the honourable senator should have quoted a few more lines.
– 1 tried to summarise it.
– But the honourable senator left out the very important point that it had been explained in earlier reports that country stations which lack videotape facilities are unable lo present many Australian programmes which are available only by that means of reproduction. The honourable senator also failed to mentioned that in respect of some stations the matter is under discussion with their respective managements.
– I used the phrase technical difficulties’.
– Perhaps that is right, but I have explained it a little further to elaborate on the point that the honourable senator raised. He raised a number of points in detail about the Australian content of television shows. I shall certainly take up with the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) the points raised by the honourable senator.
Senate adjourned at .11.50 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 14 October 1970, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1970/19701014_senate_27_s46/>.